Commission approves bid process for electronic voting system
Published 9:53 am Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Members of the Carter County Commission may soon have a new way of casting votes as the group approved a motion to solicit bids for the installation of an electronic voting system for the commission chamber.
During Tuesday’s meeting, commissioners tried out one version of the electronic voting system, that allows commissioners to cast their votes, not with their voices but with a small wireless controller. The device links into a computer system which the clerk operates and then projects the commissioners’ votes onto the wall for the public to see.
Each of the controllers has its own unique identification number which is assigned to a specific commissioner in the computer system. When a vote is called for, the commissioner selects a button marked either “aye”, “nay” or “abstain” and then hits a second button to confirm his or her vote.
Once all the commissioners have locked in their votes, the computer tallies the votes and displays the results on the wall along with the names of all the commissioners and how they voted.
“We are going to be looking at the most basic system today,” Carter County Mayor Leon Humphrey said. “In November you approved looking into an electronic voting system. We held a workshop session but not everyone was able to attend.”
Commissioner Buford Peters questioned the legality of the commission using the electronic voting system for a trial run during the meeting since the system had not been previously approved.
“We do have an electronic record of the voting that will be used to compile the minutes,” Humphrey said
Humphrey then referred the question to County Attorney Josh Hardin, who said he felt the voting method was acceptable, but added if the commissioners wanted to be “doubly safe” they could decide to use the electronic system as well as the current voice voting method. No commissioners requested to double count the votes.
During the course of the meeting, the commissioners were called upon several times to cast their votes using the wireless controllers.
In other action, members of the commission voted unanimously to name a bridge on Heaton Creek Road in Roan Mountain in honor of the late Danny Vance, a prominent and life-long resident of the community who was murdered in July 2014.
“Mr. Vance was a fine member of our community and was well respected,” said Commissioner Nancy Brown, who along with Commissioners Mike Hill and Al Meehan represents the Roan Mountain district. “I think this is a worthy gesture.”
The commission also approved the renewal of the county’s agreement with the regional juvenile detention facility, a renegotiated contract with Southern Health Partners to provide medical care for inmates at the Carter County Detention Center, several budget amendment requests and a set of procedures to follow for selling excess real estate.
Near the end of the meeting, Humphrey expressed his pleasure with how well the trial run of the system went.
“I think everything has gone very well today,” Humphrey said. Brown voiced her agreement with the mayor. “I’ve been here eight years and this is the best meeting we’ve had yet,” she said.
Because the electronic voting system would cost more than $10,000, the county would need to bid the project out. Humphrey recommended the commission go with a mid-level system, which he said would come with a price tag around $15,000.
Brown made a motion to authorize the county to solicit bids for an electronic voting system.
“My questions is where are going to get the money to pay for this,” Commissioner Bobbie Gouge-Dietz asked.
With some shifts in the line items of his budget and the building and grounds budget, Humphrey said he could free up $20,000 toward purchasing the system.
Commissioner Willie Campbell said he did not feel the electronic voting system was necessary.
“Regardless of what you say, somewhere down the line this is going to fall back on the taxpayer,” Campbell said. “What’s wrong with the system we have now? It’s worked for 50, 75 years.”
The electronic voting system presents an opportunity for the county to advance as well as be more efficient, said Commissioner Timothy Holdren. “There will be a lot less confusion and the counts will be accurate,” he said.
Commissioner Danny Ward made a motion to table the matter until the group had a better opportunity to research the system and further investigate the costs and impact to the county. Humphrey refused to recognize the motion to table, saying it was out of order.
The motion passed on a vote of 14-8. Commissioners Jerry Proffitt, Brown, Beth Depew, Ronnie Trivett, Charles VonCannon, Ross Garland, Timothy Holdren, Randall Jenkins, John Lewis, Larry Miller, Ray Lyons, Robert Carroll, Robert Gobble and Cody McQueen voting in favor of the motion. Commissioners Campbell, Peteres, Hill, Isaiah Grindstaff, L.C. Tester, Ward, Gouge-Dietz and Sonja Culler cast dissenting votes and Meehan abstained from the vote. Commissioner Scott Simerly was absent from the meeting.