Elkhart County postpones decision on electronic voting system


The decision on what type of technology Elkhart County vote centers would use has been delayed.

Since December, the Elkhart County Election Board has been waiting on the state to certify potential vendors of electronic poll books.

The state must give a stamp of approval to the bids before the county can move forward with selecting a specific company, buying and leasing equipment and implementing the voting centers in time for the 2014 primaries.

The election board met Thursday to review bids from four vendors: ESNS, Robis, RBM and KNOWiNC. Each of the companies offered something slightly different in terms of cost, service and type of electronic voting equipment.

In addition to the wait for certification, board members said they wanted to better calculate the annual cost of running vote center equipment before deciding which electronic poll book vendor to go with.

All four bids fell within the $200,000 budget the Elkhart County Council approved for vote centers. Election Board member, Wayne Kramer, said the county would prefer to lease electronic poll books instead of purchasing the equipment. However, not all the vendors have leasing options.

Elkhart County Clerk Wendy Hudson, said the change will be more for the poll workers than for voters. Some of the bids included software to calculate wait times based on number of voters in line, which Hudson said would allow administrators to better allocate resources.

Other potential digital perks include monitoring wait times online through a smartphone application or the internet and registering via a tablet or lap top computer.

The entire process must be done electronically if the county switches to vote centers over precincts. Under the current paper ballot system eligible voters must vote at their assigned precinct, assuring no person can vote twice.

Large vote centers would allow any voter, regardless of their county address, to cast a ballot at any location. To make sure no one votes twice, registration must be done through an electronic system that connects each location.

County officials believe switching to centralized voting stations will eliminate Election Day spending in the long run by reducing the number of poll workers by an estimated 50-percent, slashing the number of voting precincts from more than 100 to 24, as well as by eliminating the waste of paper ballots.

There is some concern that transitioning to fewer, centralized locations would make voting inconvenient or impossible for people living on the fringes of the county. Hudson said the idea is that those individuals would have the motivation to ask a friend, family member or neighbor to give them a ride to vote.

The county is working to have several centers located along the trolley route to allow those using public transportation to easily access them.
On Jan. 13, at 6 p.m. the election board will hold the first of five public meetings to explain how vote centers work. That meeting will take place in room 104 in the Elkhart County Administration building, 117 N. Second St. in Goshen.


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