DOMINION VOTING SYSTEMS representative Steve DeLongchamp was invited to speak during the July 13 Shiawassee County Board of Commissioners meeting to clarify Dominion’s proposal to provide election equipment to the county. DeLongchamp described Dominion’s services and capabilities to the commissioners, and he addressed the concerns of several commissioners who were skeptical of an $18,800 charge from Dominion that will not be covered by state grant funds, as they previously believed.
DeLongchamp explained that the grant covers only the equipment that is essential for elections, and that the county will need to pay for a secure cellular transmission network if it chooses to use the technology. By utilizing the cellular transmission capabilities, the county will now be able to report its unofficial election results almost immediately following the closing of polls.
DeLongchamp also pointed out to the board that Dominion now provides election services to 61 of the state’s 83 counties. The county will conduct both the August and November elections of this year with its current ES&S equipment, with the switch to Dominion equipment occurring in 2018.
(Independent Photo/Graham Sturgeon)
by Graham Sturgeon, co-editor
The Shiawassee County Board of Commissioners voted during its Thursday, July 13 meeting to allow clerk Caroline Wilson to accept a $247,345 grant from the state of Michigan to purchase a new voting system, which is part of a statewide plan to replace outdated voting machines. The grant will cover the purchase of precinct tabulators, Absent Voter Counting Board tabulators, accessible voting devices, and related Election Management System software. The decision to accept the grant was tabled by the board in March.
The decision to table the acceptance of the grant in March came after a lengthy discussion between the commissioners and clerk Caroline Wilson. In order to accept the grant, the county had to select a voting system provider. Wilson decided to change providers from Election Systems and Software (ES&S) – which the county has used for more than 20 years – to Dominion Voting Systems, due mostly to her view that the company provides superior customer service and would cost the county less in the long run. That decision went against the preference of many of the county’s city and township clerks, who are comfortable using ES&S equipment. Because of this, several commissioners questioned the change in providers, though they acknowledged it was Wilson’s decision to make.
Also approved during the July 13 meeting was an agenda item to transfer $18,800 from the county’s fund balance to that of the clerk’s office for the purchase of peripheral election equipment. The grant provides funding for only the equipment essential to collecting and storing votes, with each county, township, and city left to cover any additional costs related to transferring election data.
The $18,800 will cover the cost of an express server and desktop that will make it possible for the clerk’s office to receive cellular transmissions from city and township clerks securely on Election Day.
The technology will allow unofficial voting results to be transferred to the county clerk’s office immediately following the closing of polls. Shiawassee County is traditionally one of the last counties in the state to report its unofficial results, so the new technology should change that.
Each city and township that chooses to transmit its results through the secure cellular connection will need to buy a modem, at a cost of $295 per modem, for each of its polling stations. It will be up to each township and city to decide whether to use the new technology or continue with the current method of hand-delivering results. Additionally, the state has agreed to cover the cost of maintaining the new election equipment for five years. After that, each township and city will take over the maintenance costs, which amount to $615 per year, per precinct.