Commission votes down purchase of electronic voting system

Published 11:36 am Wednesday, February 25, 2015

During its Monday meeting, only one vote stood in the way of the Carter County Commission’s purchase of an electronic voting system to be used during meetings.

When the votes were counted Monday night, the motion failed on a vote of 12 to 8.

While 12 was a majority of the commissioners present, in order for a motion to pass it must receive at least 13 votes – the majority of the number of total members.

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Commissioners Nancy Brown, Ronnie Trivett, Charles Von Cannon, Ross Garland, Timothy Holdren, Randall Jenkins, John Lewis, Larry Miller, Ray Lyons, Robert Carroll, Robert Gobble and Cody McQueen voted in favor of the purchase. Commissioners Wilie Campbell, Buford Peters, Mike Hill, Isaiah Grindstaff, L.C. Tester, Danny Ward, Bobbie Gouge-Dietz and Sonja Culler voted against the purchase. Commissioners Jerry Proffitt, Beth Depew, Al Meehan and Scott Simerly were absent from the meeting.

The group first discussed the possibility of purchasing an electronic voting system during its November meeting. During the January commission meeting, members tried out one of the systems and at the conclusion of that meeting, commissioners voted 14-8 to seek bids for the purchase of the system.

Using an electronic voting system would have allowed commissioners to cast their votes with a small wireless controller. The device links into a computer system that 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. No one knows how each commissioner voted until after all of the votes are in and tallied.

Bids were presented to the budget committee earlier this month, with the low bid coming in at a cost of $20,000. County Mayor Leon Humphrey said he had enough money in his budget to cover system, and the committee approved the transfer of funds to purchase the system.

When budget committee chairwoman Culler presented the committee’s recommendation to the full commission, she said she would not make the motion to approve the purchase. The motion to approve the purchase was then made by Holdren and seconded by Lewis.

During debate on the motion, several commissioners gave their opinion on the purchase of an electronic voting system.

“I don’t understand why we would spend $20,000 of the taxpayers’ money on something we don’t need,” Tester said.

That sentiment was echoed by several other commissioners.

“I think the yes and the no or the yay and the nay works just as good as it did 50 years ago,” Campbell said.