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Commission elects company to outfit county with voting machines

By Robert Morgan   Times Record News
April 26, 2005

Democratic Party Chair Bettye Tanner-Shelby is worried. County Judge Woody Gossom is hopeful. Both cast these polls Monday regarding a contract with Election Systems and Software to handle the county's elections.

"I just want a good election," Bettye Tanner-Shelby, Democratic Party chair, said.

She said she was worried the county would not be able to maintain election officials because of the new technology.

County Judge Woody Gossom laughed at the concern because the county's "been having trouble with that all along," he said.

He is hoping the new technology excites people to get involved in voting, instead of scaring them away.

After almost a year of research and debate, the Wichita County Commissioners picked Election Systems and Software to lead the county into the next generation of voting. The company - which currently contracts with the county - won the low bid over Hart Intercivic.

ESS turned in a low bid of $880,006.50 to equip all 35 of the county's precincts. The price will be completely covered by a $1,046,555 state grant meant to help purchase the machines.

The new voting technology will be touch screen, Lori Bohannon, county clerk, said.

Commissioner Joe Miller called the equipment an "easier thing for someone to learn."

The bid placed by ESS beat the competing bids of Hart Intercivic by at least $100,000. The approved vendor also had less expensive licensing fees.

County officials originally estimated the equipment to cost $1.7 million, and Bohannon and Gossom said the price could still increase from storage costs and training of more than 200 election workers.

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