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County still holding out for cheaper voting machine option

Amie Rose DAILY HERALD   25 July 2005

Utah County officials are waiting for an August meeting with Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert to talk about election equipment, but not idly.

County officials put out their own request for bids on election equipment in June, to find out if they can comply with federal law and spend less federal and county money than the state's proposal to replace all punchcard voting machines with direct-recording electronic equipment from Diebold.

"The reality is if we were able to save money, and other people did it, there may be enough money to fund everything," said Utah County Commissioner Jerry Grover. "If we could find a system that's two-thirds the price of the current Diebold proposal, current money would cover everything. I don't see why the lieutenant governor wouldn't be interested."

Utah County got two bids before the July 5 due date, and now officials are investigating the companies. They'll have their evaluations of the equipment done by Aug. 5, said Kim Jackson, Utah County clerk-auditor.

One company, Election Systems & Software, already has done a demonstration for county officials, he said. IVS LLC will do a demonstration on Aug. 5. ES&S also bid for the state contract but lost to Diebold.

The federal Help America Vote Act requires at least one voting machine per polling place that is accessible to people with disabilities. The system must have "nonvisual accessibility for the blind and visually impaired, in a manner that provides the same opportunity for access and participation (including privacy and independence) as for other voters." The machines must be in place by 2006.

The state already has chosen direct-recording electronic voting equipment ATM-like machines made by Diebold to replace the state's punchcard system, and Herbert is making the rounds, talking to all 29 counties about buying the machines about $3,000 each. He's also going to be talking about how the state is going to distribute the $3.7 million shortfall between how much money the state has and what the replacement machines will cost.

Herbert is scheduled to be in Utah County in mid-August. He will start his meeting tour with Daggett, Duchesne, Uintah, Grand and San Juan counties on Aug. 2.

All of Utah County's evaluations will be done by then, so it can compare equipment and costs with the state.

But Grover's not sure if the county can get the federal HAVA money without going with the state's plan.

"That's the big question," he said. "If there's another alternative system that meets the requirements and it's a lot cheaper, would the lieutenant governor's office reimburse the county for those expenditures?"

Initially, the answer was no, Grover said. But no one ever officially said no.

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