Weld County commissioners spike clerk and recorder’s emergency request for voting equipment — for now
May 1, 2017
Weld County commissioners will schedule a work session with Clerk and Recorder Carly Koppes, and plan to vote on approval of new electronic voting equipment during a regular meeting Monday.
Weld County commissioners on Monday rebuffed Clerk and Recorder Carly Koppes' attempt to secure an emergency bid award for electronic voting equipment, saying they didn't believe it was an emergency and laying the blame for the holdup at Koppes' feet.
The nearly $500,000 bid would pay for new touch screen voting equipment and new electronic ballot counting machines. Koppes and some staff members will attend a training Friday and must conduct a mock election in July. For those reasons, Koppes requested the county waive its typical 10-day vetting period for bids as part of an emergency approval.
But the emergency approval also would have come without commissioners seeing the bid or the request for proposals, among other issues commissioners raised.
"I'm a little bit concerned about approving a bid without seeing what's in that bid, seeing what's being purchased," Commissioner Mike Freeman said. "It has been 14 months; does a week make a difference?"
Koppes and commissioners have discussed new voting equipment going back to February 2016. The new equipment would fall in line with the secretary of state's goal of a unified voting system, first put forth by former Secretary of State Scott Gessler.
Koppes said the new equipment wouldn't significantly change voters' experience, and it would allow her office to count ballots more quickly, considering the ballot counting equipment would replace equipment from the early 1990s. One of the reasons Koppes wanted to get the purchase approved quickly is that Weld is one of 38 counties that will have contracted with Dominion Voting Systems this year, and training is on a first-come, first-served basis, Koppes said.
And with a mock election coming up in July, Koppes said she wanted to ensure her staff would have time for proper training.
Why didn't Koppes' office didn't bring up the request sooner?
"You'll have to ask the commissioners," she said, laying blame at their feet. "There wasn't any holdup on my end."
Both Trevor Jiricek, director of general services for the county, and County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer said the push to buy the equipment in 2017 instead of 2016 was mutual. But there were disagreements.
There was talk of implementing a new system before a presidential election being a bad idea.
Further, Kirkmeyer said she had concerns about the state's process of selecting and certifying one company without what she said was a proper procurement process.
Secretary of State Wayne Williams said in a phone interview after Monday's meeting the state went through an exhaustive selection process, including a request for proposals.
"It was the most extensive review process for election equipment ever in the country," Williams said, adding that there was a review committee made up of clerks and recorders.
One of those was Steve Moreno, a current Weld County commissioner. Moreno said the review committee was split on which company to choose, providing two top choices as part of a recommendation.
The state has since decided on Dominion Voting Systems, and Williams has certified Dominion equipment. Williams also has promised to cover half of the training and implementation costs for counties that switch.
Regardless, Kirkmeyer wanted the county to follow Weld's procurement process and do a request for proposals of its own, even if that meant just one company would respond.
Weld put out its request for proposals in February, and only recently received a single response from the lone company the state has certified, Dominion Voting Systems.
Despite that certification being published on the Secretary of State website, commissioners said they also wanted a letter saying the company was certified by the secretary of state.
Koppes said she was happy to provide that, and given the tacit approval of commissioners, she plans to contact Dominion soon to discuss training and other items.
"I would have liked to have gotten this equipment last year," Koppes said. "But if (the requested items) are going to make one commissioner happy, I'm totally game to get that done (to make it better for voters in Weld County)."
— Tyler Silvy covers city and county government for The Greeley Tribune. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Connect with him at Facebook.com/TylerSilvy or @TylerSilvy on Twitter.