The Bulloch County commissioners are slated to act Tuesday, Oct. 3, on a more than $203,000 purchase request by the county elections office for 52 Vote Center Hub lockable wheeled cabinets meant to simplify Election Day wrap-up, among other things.
Election Supervisor Shontay Jones signed two requisition forms for purchases included as “consent agenda” items for the 5:30 p.m. regular Board of Commissioners meeting.
She proposes to buy, from Runbeck Election Services Inc., 34 “D4 Vote Hubs,” each designed to hold four Dominion touchscreen voting tablets and ballot-summary printers along with their power supply and battery; another 16 “D2 Vote Hubs,” each for two voting tablets and ballot printers each; and two “D2 Vote Hub … Plus” cabinets for holding two touchscreen tablet-printer pairs with “Integrated Imagecast,” or in other words an attached ballot scanner. Each hub would also house a plug-in power supply and battery.
So each D4 unit will hold in effect four voting stations; each D2 unit, four voting stations.
By eliminating the need for separate tables to hold each touchscreen machine and printer set – together officially called a “ballot marking device,” or BMD – and bringing up to four sets together, the hubs will make more efficient use of available space in voting places, Jones said in an interview. By allowing poll workers to unplug and lock that many machines in a single console, the hubs should also speed up the process of securing the equipment in the county’s 16 voting precincts after the close of polls on Election Night, she said.
“We’re hoping with these voter hubs, if approved – because they were approved in the budget, but now if approved with this purchase order – that we can get these so we can speed up Election Night reporting, because as I’ve explained in the past, this is one of the procedures that ties the poll workers up at night,” Jones said.
Right now, all of the election devices are stored and moved separately. So if one of the four largest precincts – for example, the Statesboro precinct, which will now vote in the Luetta Moore Park community building – has 20 BMDs, these turn into 40 pieces of equipment when the tablet and printer have to be packed away in separate cases, she explained. Poll managers also have to fill out a chain of custody form with serial numbers from each of the tablets.
With the hubs, the count of serial numbers required on the forms won’t change, but the equipment can be transported in the hub and, at the end of the day, unplugged from a single wall outlet and resealed as a unit.
“What you would then have to do is seal the hub and do your same reporting, but you’re not having to repack over 40 pieces of equipment,” Jones said. “You may have five hubs to seal.”
Bulloch County currently has more than 180 pieces of voting equipment, not counting the scanners, that are deployed to the precincts for each general election, she noted. By simplifying set-up on the days before each Election Day as well as the closing on Election Night, Jones hopes to “make it a little easier on some of our seasoned poll managers,” and keep them doing a job they do mainly from a desire to provide a community service, she said.
The Vote Hubs will not include a scanner except in the case of the two “Hub Plus” units, so most precincts will still need separate scanners.
Jones said she wants to try the Hub Plus stations, which allow for BMDs with attached ballot scanners, as a way to save space in small voting places experiencing population growth, such as at Nevils.
The requisition form shows pricing subtotals of $158,100 for the 34 “D4” units, costing $4,650 each; $34,400 for the 16 “D2” units at $2,150 each; and $10,700 for the two “D2 … Plus” units at $5,350 each. Those subtotals add up to $203,200, but the form does not give an actual total, showing the freight charge for shipping the hubs here as “TBD,” or to be determined.
The Voter Hubs are needed “to store election equipment during transport to voting precincts and early voting sites,” states a county staff memo summarizing the agenda item for the Board of Commissioners. According to the memo, Runbeck is requiring a 50% deposit of the purchase price to start the order for custom-made Voter Hubs, which are expected to take 10 to 12 weeks for delivery.
Also 10 Poll Pads
Jones’ other requisition is for a smaller expenditure and involves a different company. She wants to place an order for 10 new Poll Pad devices from KnowInk with an added voting receipt printing feature. Poll Pads are the devices poll workers use to check voters’ driver licenses or other ID and program the ballot cards.
Besides the 10 devices at $1,845 each, the order includes software upgrades and support for a lump sum of $140 for the second year of use and another $140 for the third year. So the total cost of the order to KnowInk is $21,250.
The addition of these 10 Poll Pads will allow the county to have a dedicated set for early voting without needing to reprogram pads between early voting and Election Day.
The new Poll Pads will also allow the check-in and voting confirmation steps to be done the same way as on Election Day, no longer requiring a separate voter check-in table as previously used for early voting, Jones said. This simplified procedure is newly authorized by the state.
However, neither the hubs nor the additional ID pads are mandated or funded by the state government. These would be county-funded purchases, projected in the current budget.
Consent agenda items – of which there are nine bracketed on Tuesday’s full agenda for the Board of Commissioners meeting, are usually approved together on a single motion and second, but commissioners have the option of separating out items for further discussion and individual votes.