Mad River Union
HUMBOLDT – Humboldt County is sticking with the company that now provides election ballot system equipment, but the chair of the Board of Supervisors has voted against doing so due to timing and cost issues.
The Hart InterCivic company was chosen as the county’s voting system vendor by a majority of supervisors at their Oct. 8 meeting. Registrar of Voters Kelly Sanders said Hart has been the county’s vendor since 2006 and was the only company to meet all of the county’s selection criteria in a competitive process.
Counties across the state are updating their voting systems as ones in use were decertified by the state last February. One of the county’s key criteria for choosing a vendor is that all of its systems must be state-certified.
Sanders said Hart was the only company whose systems are fully certified. But another company, Dominion Voting Systems, offered a less costly system that’s more commonly used.
“For $176,000 more, I suspect that there’s got to be a lot of benefits that you’re seeing,” Supervisor Virginia Bass said to Sanders in reference to the price difference.
Sanders acknowledged that Dominion “has the majority of California counties” but “we totally vetted both systems and we felt that the Hart system is the best fit for Humboldt County.”
The new system will employ paper ballot voting for all categories and Sanders said it will “get results out to the public quicker.” Ballots will be scanned and can be displayed on a monitor to determine a voter’s intent if there are cross-outs or other uncertainties.
The upcoming primary election has been moved from June to March and Sanders explained that there’s not enough time to reject Hart’s bid and re-start the selection process.
“So if we don’t approve this today, we can’t have an election?” said a disappointed Board Chair Rex Bohn. “Because if that’s the case, it’s kind of like, ‘Buy your insurance today or we’re going to burn your house down tomorrow.’”
He asked why the bid approval is coming “so late.”
“Basically, if it’s not approved today, we do not have a certified system, we will not have a certified system for March if we do not move forward,” Sanders said.
“Alright – I hope other departments don’t take a hint off of this and bring everything in late and we don’t have a choice,” Bohn said.
But Supervisor Steve Madrone emphasized that Hart is the only company that fully responded to the county’s criteria, including the essential criteria of being fully certified.
“It happens sometimes, when things are on deadlines,” he said. “And in the contracting world, there are responsive bids and non-responsive bids – and what you have is one responsive bid.”
“Frankly, as much as I would like to save money, I do have concerns about the Dominion platform,” Madrone continued. “I’m fully supportive and ready to approve this now.”
Supervisors voted to go with Hart, with Bohn dissenting.
The new system will cost $875,000, which will be covered through state and federal grants. The state portion requires a county match of $218,000.