Mohave County says yes to new voting equipment
Department has been saving for expense
KINGMAN - Elections director Allen Tempert wants to make sure everyone's vote counts - and only counts once - so he's asking the Mohave County Board of Supervisors to approve spending $683,000 on new voting machine equipment.
The agenda item brought to the board Monday would also consolidate the current 73 voting precincts into 24 precincts, with centralized locations such as the Mohave County Fairgrounds.
Supervisors voted 3-2 to delay the decision for two weeks, allowing time for public comments.
Voting is "our most sacred right," Supervisor Hildy Angius said before making a motion to table the item. She wanted to hear from people who might point out "unintended consequences" of the precinct consolidation.
Tempert said his proposal cuts back on equipment, poll workers and operational costs, bringing election costs from about $237,000 down to $140,000.
Electronic poll books will get people through the line quickly, reduce the number of poll workers needed and immediately update voter information, the elections director said.
"This is not a new toy for Allen. It's a necessity," Tempert told the board. "Voting equipment companies are always working on the next edition, something more efficient."
Voting machines last about 10 years, Tempert noted, and Mohave County has had its optical scan equipment since 2004. It's getting hard to find replacement parts.
Supervisors Jean Bishop and Buster Johnson were opposed to continuing the item. They heard Tempert talk about the need to get people trained on the new machines.
Even though it was tabled for two weeks, the new voting system has support, Bishop said. The board previously approved a fund in anticipation of replacing voting equipment, so it will not affect any other department budget, she said.
"The election department planned ahead and saved for eight years so they are ready to make the change and have the funding," Bishop said. "Other counties have told me they wish their county had planned ahead like Mohave County did, so that made me proud."
As far as consolidating voting precincts, Bishop said it would be less confusing for voters and save the county about $180,000 in overall election costs.
"Some of the concern was from the Republican Party stating they could lose 49 precinct committee slots, but as long as I've been a precinct chairman, they have never had all of their positions filled," she said. "I suspect it is the same with the Democratic Party."
Tempert said the new system would bring a central count, high-speed ballot tabulation to sort write-ins and mismarked ballots. It quickly tabulates early ballots, eliminating the cost of poll site tabulation equipment.
County Administrator Mike Hendrix said the elections department has about $1.1 million in its reserve fund, so the proposal would be at no cost to the general fund. It would cost about $2.1 million to equip all 73 precincts with new voting machines, he said.