County says ‘no’ to new ballot counters

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 29, 1999

Mower County citizens, including the media, who like to receive their election results before the morning after, received bad news Tuesday.

Wednesday, September 29, 1999

Mower County citizens, including the media, who like to receive their election results before the morning after, received bad news Tuesday.

Email newsletter signup

The county board of commissioners will not spend $61,000 on a new optical scan ballot tabulator.

The new technology allows election results to be computed almost within seconds and minutes at the most. The city of Austin has the machines for each of the city’s voting precincts.

Mower County must rely upon hand-counting of ballots for its official election results.

In a Presidential Election year, that can mean waiting until the wee hours of the morning after Election Day to find out who won and who lost.

Woody Vereide, Mower County Auditor, was philosophical about the board’s decision.

"I have absolutely no vested interest in this whatsoever," Vereide said. "We will continue to do it the way we’ve been doing it for years in Mower County."

Vereide went to the county board Tuesday to seek their permission to purchase a central machine – called an electronic ballot tabulator – for $61,000 from Election Systems and Software.

The firm’s representative is Michael Hoversten, son of former long-time Austin city attorney Kermit Hoversten and brother of his successor, David Hoversten.

"The Secretary of State notified the counties that her office would offer a state-wide purchasing contract to all 87 counties," Vereide said. "A state contract allows local units of government to purchase things at a discount."

"In this case, the Secretary of State notified the local units of government that electronic ballot tabulating equipment could be purchased from this company as specified by the Secretary of State," he said. "We had until Sept. 15 to decide or we would have to pay about $10,000 more for the same equipment after that date."

The package of optical scan vote tabulation equipment included the tabulator itself and a computer software package.

Mower County would be linked to the Secretary of State’s office to provide complete election results instantly after merging with the city of Austin’s own scanning equipment.

In state-wide races, or others, how a single county goes could determine the outcome of a race and, therefore, the Secretary of State needs all the results from all 87 counties as quickly as possible in every election.

Vereide admitted, "It is hard to quantify purchasing such equipment."

Despite the city’s acquisition of the expensive equipment for each of its voting precincts, the only contribution the equipment makes is the speed in counting votes.

However, Vereide said there could be some savings in the expenses for election judges and other Election Day staff needed to work virtually overnight as is the custom in Mower County.

He maintained, "With the scanning equipment, we could have all the results from all the voting precincts by 9 or 9:30 p.m. on Election Night. Now, we don’t have them until the wee, wee hours of the morning after the election sometimes."

The majority (68) of Minnesota counties have the scanning equipment.

In other action Tuesday, the commissioners went into closed session with Glen W. Jacobsen, deputy chief prosecutor for Mower County and designated legal counsel to the commissioners.

Afterwards, they agreed to re-advertise for bids for the county’s public safety signage project.

The unsuccessful low bidder for a contract to manufacture and install the new designated street signs in the county’s 20 townships objected to not being awarded the contract and threatened legal action in a letter to county officials.

The firm was disqualified, because of failing to strictly adhere to the original bid specifications.

Now, the contract issued by the county will be withdrawn and new bids on the work requested.

The new contract is scheduled to be awarded October 26.

Also Tuesday, the county commissioners:

­ Approved providing flu immunizations shots for all county employees with the assistance of the Public Health Nursing department.

­­ Approved a second installment payment of $25,000 to the city of Austin for the joint city-county home ownership program.

­­ Approved a $14,687 payment to the state of Minnesota for the county’s continued participation in the Sentencing To Service Program.

­­ Delayed action for one week on recommendations for siting the multi-purpose building at the fairgrounds. The recommendations were approved Monday evening at a special meeting of the strategic planning infrastructure sub-committee of the county’s long-range planning committee.