GOSHEN — The Elkhart County Election Board wants to calculate the annual costs of vote center equipment before committing to a vendor for electronic poll books that could be used as early as May for primary elections.
Election board members reviewed bids Thursday, Jan. 9, from four companies trying to sell or lease electronic poll books to the county. If all goes to plan, the equipment will be distributed among 24 vote centers in centralized locations scattered throughout the county. Vote centers would allow registered voters to cast ballots at any of the polling sites instead of being tied to a particular location. The poll books would prevent people from voting in more than one location.
A group of electronic poll book vendors are in the process of becoming certified for elections with the state. Five companies responded to the election board’s request for proposals, but only four qualified. All four bids fell within a $200,000 equipment budget approved by the Elkhart County Council.
The highest bid came from Robis for $190,000, and the least expensive option was submitted by KNOWiNC for $170,000. ES&S offered to supply the poll books for $180,000, and RBM submitted a bid at $185,000.
Election board members said they would prefer to lease the electronic poll books rather than buy the equipment. Two of the vendors — Robis and KNOWiNC — do not have lease options.
The election board did not choose a vendor Thursday. Members said they would like more time to review ongoing or annual costs linked to each company’s proposal. The board will reconvene at noon Monday, Jan. 13, at the Elkhart County Administration Building, 117 N. Second St. in Goshen.
The four vendors each had pros and cons, according to County Clerk Wendy Hudson. Some of the systems seem more complicated than others, she said.
“Through the vendor demonstrations, I have to say they all have good points, and they all have their low points,” Hudson said. “I think we each have our own feelings which ones are better, but now we have to wait and see how certification goes.”
The vendor the county picks must be certified by the state, Hudson added.
The election board will hold five public meetings in January to explain how vote centers work. The first meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 13, in room 104 at the Elkhart County Administration Building, 117 N. Second St. in Goshen. A map of the proposed vote centers will be available. Questions can be submitted by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.