After months of negotiations, the Wake County Board of Elections has worked out a deal with its voting machine vendor that will save the county about $140,000 a year.
A 2006 change in state law requires counties to maintain the hardware and software of their voting machines. Until July, the county had been using Help America Vote Act funds to pay for the upgrades and maintenance for its 248 voting machines. The county will now have to foot the bill.
Earlier this year, ES&S, the county’s voting machine vendor proposed $193,000 per year for a three-year contract.
Wake County Board of Elections Director Cherie Poucher also wanted to train two of the county’s own technicians to inspect, fix and maintain the machines, rather than having ES&S do it as it has since 2006. But certification would cost the county $30,000 per employee.
The county was able to secure a shared maintenance agreement.
In the contract, unanimously approved by the Wake County Board of Commissioners on Monday, the county will pay $15,000 for each certification and the training will occur in North Carolina instead of Oklahoma City as originally planned.
“Any minor repairs we’ll be able to handle because we will have the same training,” Poucher said.
ES&S will still handle major repairs, but the company will only charge the county for parts. If there are any problems on Election Day, Poucher said ES&S will have a representative on site within four hours.
The new contract will cost the county about $52,000 per year.
Prior to an election, Poucher said that the Board of Elections will inspect and test every voting machine. A week prior to the election, 10 percent of the machines are randomly tested again.
During the public comment period, Chris Telesca, founder of the Wake County Coalition for Verified Voting, said he thought that the decision to enter into this contract with ES&S was moving too quickly and it wasn’t the right election year.