After much deliberation, members of the Sevier County Election Commission voted to accept a bid of $341,655 for 95 new voting machines to be used in voting precincts across the county.
The bid came from Nebraska-based company, Election Systems and Software (ES&S) who presented their voting machines to the commissioners earlier this year.
The final price for these machines could also be adjusted as the bid’s approval is still contingent on further modifications of the quote pertaining to necessary management software.
“The only recommendations I’ve heard from the staff and the technicians have been for ES&S,” said Election Commission Chairman Paul Bolinger.
At the commission’s prior meeting, last week, technician Bill Parham said that Harp Enterprise’s system —the alternative bid—would be much slower come election day calling the dial system “cumbersome and time-consuming.”
“We don’t want to buy any new machines that slow down the electoral process,” Bolinger said. “If we buy 95 machines and the first election we have has lines everywhere, I don’t want to be around,” said Bolinger.
Elections Coordinator Liz Nichols said: “Well, everyone’s going to have lines everywhere—every county.”
Parham pointed out that early voting would account for as many as half of the voters.
While the other bid, from Harp, is the cheaper option, the company’s machine was not as well-received in terms of usability by the election staff and members of the public who tested the machine.
Election Commission staff members have said that the touch-screen system utilized by ES&S’s system is easier to use than the Harp voting machine’s rotary dial.
Administrator of Elections Liz Nichols also said that the comments she has received concerning the two machines have leaned towards the ES&S touch-screen system. “ES&S is what the voters want—they’re comfortable with the touch-screen,” said Nichols.
The county is searching for new machines in order to come into compliance with federal laws requiring precincts to make independent voting possible for blind persons.
Both bids include one handicapped-accessible voting machine for each precinct in the county. By the Help America Vote Act, passed in 2002, each polling place must have “at least one direct recording electronic voting system or other voting system equipped to allow disabled voters the same opportunity for access and participation as other voters, including the ability to vote independently and privately.”