County approves purchase of election equipment

Published 7:15 am Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Mower County is purchasing poll pads for upcoming elections.

While the city of Austin has already purchased its poll pads, the County Board approved purchasing 27 poll pads for it and townships and cities in the county.

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Of the $74,000 the county received in a grant for election equipment in 2017 and 2018, about $26,000 remains.

This would pay for about 75 percent of the $34,560 cost of the poll pads; the grant requires a 25 percent match.

Of the remaining $8,685, the county would pay $1,005 for its three poll pads, while cities and townships that do not vote by mail would split the remaining $7,680.

In addition, the county will pay $2,500, while the affected cities and townships split another $2,500 for software licensing.

The Board approved paying the $3,505 for the poll pads.

Commissioner Mike Ankeny asked what the poll pads were for.

“It’s just the registration basically,” said County Auditor/Treasurer Scott Felten.

The tablets will replace paper rosters used to check people in when they come to the polling place and register to vote.

The Board also looked at applying for $200,000 for new vote counting machines, along with other machines aimed at assisting voters with disabilities. The current machines used to help voters with disabilities are out of date, Felten said.

“It’s a very heavy, very old piece of equipment. It probably weighs 70-80 pounds,” he said.

The new machine would be a laptop the size of a tablet.

The funds could also be used to purchase more vote tabulating machines, Felten said. Currently, the city of Austin has newer machines at all of its precincts.

Because the county has 40 pecincts total, it is eligible for $200,000, or $5,000 a precinct, Felten said.

Purchasing 22 machines for the precincts that do not do mail ballots, plus one spare machine, would cost $118,250.

Having 25 of the assisted voting devices would cost just over $96,000, for a total of $214,000.

Because of the grant’s rules, it would cover half of that, $107,000. This is the potential maximum if the county decides to move forward, Felten said.

The grant application is due at the end of January and the county would have all of 2020 to decide whether or not to purchase equipment, he said. The Board approved allowing Felten to apply for the grant.

The remainder would be split between the county, townships and cities receiving the machines.

During its meeting, the Board also approved the 2020 property tax levy of $22.6 million and the 2020 budget of $53.5 million.

It reappointed Jen Ulwelling to the Mower County Housing Authority for a five-year term, effective Jan. 1, 2020.

The Board approved using refunded state sales tax dollars, totaling $30,000, to fund part of the bathroom project at the Purple Ribbon Plaza. The remaining amount , $20,000 will be paid by the Ag Society.

The Board combined its economic development policy and Grow Austin policy into one new economic development policy. The policy uses the requirement that businesses looking to receive incentives must pay at least 65 percent of its employees 125 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.