Washington, Dakota counties hope collaboration brings more bidders, better price
Washington and Dakota counties will collaborate on the purchase of new election equipment in hopes of attracting broader vendor interest and more competitive bids after the Washington County Board of Commissioners approved a cooperative purchase agreement Tuesday.
The county’s current 13-year-old election equipment was purchased in 1999 and is used in 89 precincts. In a memo to commissioners, Property Records and Taxpayer Services Director Jennifer Wagenius added that the county’s current equipment “has outlived its live expectancy of 10 years, and replacement parts are difficult to obtain.”
PRTS officials said a combination of almost $265,000 in federal grant funds, of which more than $179,500 must be spent by March 31, 2014, and $451,700 in levy and county program aid would fund the equipment purchase.
Commissioners were told that Dakota County sought requests for proposals for the new equipment June 24, with requests due July 26. Metro-area counties, including Hennepin, Ramsey, Anoka and Scott counties, are currently planning to purchase new election equipment.
Wagenius said in her memo that approval of the cooperative purchasing agreement with Dakota County allows Washington County to purchase election equipment and services under the same terms and conditions offered to Dakota County by RFP respondents.
The new equipment would have ballot programming software and include ongoing maintenance and an absentee ballot central count machine, according to PRTS staff. The absentee ballot central count machine is important because the state allows no-excuse absentee balloting.
Before the board approved the collaboration between Washington and Dakota counties, Commissioner Autumn Lehrke asked if the new machines would be compatible with any future voter identification laws that might be introduced.
Wagenius explained that the Minnesota Secretary of State’s Office approves all election equipment for compatibility and if a voter I.D. law was passed, a program would need to be integrated into the new machine’s existing computer system.
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