County updating election equipment

Chad Frey
The Kansan
The county is updating and upgrading voting machines, with new equipment offering a printed ballot for voters to review.

Harvey County is using voting machines and equipment purchased in 2006, a system that is aging out of usefulness. 

"We are using DRE's, or direct recording," said county clerk and election official Rick Piepho. "... Our equipment does not have ...  printers that have a voter verifiable audit trail. It is in statute that if we replace our equipment, that it has to have a  voter verifiable audit trail."

Currently the county uses  48 voting machines distributed among 13 polling places which allows the county to offer every voter the option to vote a hand-marked paper ballot or to vote on the electronic machine.

Replacement of voting equipment began last year, when COVID and grant funds led the county to purchase of ClearCount ballot tabulation and auditing portion of the election equipment.

Prior to that purchase Piepho received quotes/estimates from three election equipment vendors for a system-wide replacement plan. 

The county chose this week to start with that replacement plan — pending state approval of the ClearCount voter system selected by Piepho. That system will print a full ballot for voters to review.

"The voting device is now a ballot marking device," Piepho said. "The device fills the ovals for you. The voter then has their ballot in their hand and can review it before turning in in."

 The system is currently in process of state certification with the State Attorney General's office.

"ClearBallot is in the process of state certification, they are nationally certified," Piepho said. "I went to the hearing ... their certification hearing. I have not been updated on their approval."

The county is required to provide at least 1 ADA voting device at each polling place; all of the ballot marking devices offered are ADA compliant.

According to Piepho, Clear Ballot has the lowest annual cost and the lowest overall cost for a five year period.

"We also have the option to purchase ballot scanning devices for each polling place; utilizing these devices should speed up the election night tabulation and results reporting process," Piepho said.

This week the commission approved purchase, pending state approval, of the system. The 48 voting devices and 13 precinct scanning devices hardware and software system  cost should not exceed $233,635.  A portion of the purchase will be delayed until 2022 in order to utilize the $40,000 expected to be budgeted in 2022