CALDWELL — After years of slow-coming election results and late-night ballot counting in Canyon County, the elections office may purchase new voting tabulation machines for polling locations.
In a legal notice, the county said it is considering machines manufactured by Hart InterCivic to improve the voting system prior to the 2020 election.
A legal notice published in the Idaho Press Tuesday said the county will only consider purchasing the machines from Hart InterCivic, rather than putting out bids for other vendors. Public agencies must go through a competitive bid process for purchases or services worth more than $50,000, unless they declare sole-source procurement.
State law allows agencies to skip the bid process for a handful of reasons, including it there’s only one vendor available; if an immediate response is needed to protect the public or property; or if the compatibility of the equipment is “the paramount consideration.”
To claim sole-source procurement, the agency must run a public notice in the newspaper. Canyon County’s notice states: “The competitive solicitation of other voting machine and tally system would be impractical, disadvantageous, or unreasonable.” The notice says taking into consideration the machine’s compatibility with other equipment, its components and software, it is the best option for the county.
Joe Decker, Canyon County spokesman, said the Board of Canyon County Commissioners voted Tuesday to publish the notice. The decision was split, with Commissioners Tom Dale and Pam White voting yes, and Commissioner Leslie Van Beek voting no. They will hear public comment at their 9 a.m. meeting on Oct. 23 before completing the purchase.
Decker said details about how many tabulation machines will be purchased and their cost is still being worked out. If the commissioners decide to buy the equipment, those details will be set.
In their 2020 budget, commissioners allocated $3.5 million for new voting machines. County Clerk Chris Yamamoto has previously said the new machines are crucial before the 2020 election.
In the November 2018 election, Canyon County was the second-to-last county to have results in. The county also forgot to count 39 ballots from overseas citizens and active military members on election night. Those results did not come in until a few days later.
According to county documents, Ada County used Hart InterCivic voting equipment in the November 2018 election, when it finished counting ballots at midnight. Canyon County finished the next morning.
In an exhibit, Canyon County compares competitor equipment to Hart InterCivic’s, and finds the equipment allows editing, so if a mistake is made on the ballot, the entire thing does not need to be deleted. The electronic equipment “eliminates human error,” the exhibit said. The equipment comes on an ADA accessible stand, and at the end of election night, the equipment can easily upload the results from each precinct to a USB drive.