House Approves Study of Optical Scan Voting System and Support Services Contract

The House of Delegates approved an amendment, offered by the House Appropriations Committee to SB 141, the Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act, to require an independent consultant to study the State Board of Elections  voting system support services contract recently approved by the Board of Public Works and the proposed procurement of an optical scan voting system.   Both the contract and the proposed procurement have received a significant level of scrutiny in recent months due to the cost associated with each and the timing needed to successfully implement a new optical scan voting system for the 2010 election cycle.

The Governor did not include funds for the new voting system in the proposed Fy 2011 Budget.  However, the support services contract did move forward to ensure the existing voting system is operational and associated staff are trained for the upcoming elections.

Specific amendment language is below –

(E) SUBJECT TO SUBSECTION (C) OF THIS SECTION, FOR FISCAL YEAR 2011, AN AMOUNT UP TO $150,000 OF THE BALANCE IN THE FUND MAY BE TRANSFERRED TO THE DEPARTMENT OF LEGISLATIVE SERVICES FOR THE PURPOSE OF PAYING THE COST OF A CONTRACT WITH AN INDEPENDENT CONSULTANT TO CONDUCT A STUDY OF THE ISSUES ENUMERATED IN SUBSECTION (G) OF THIS SECTION.
(F) ANY FUNDS TRANSFERRED FROM THE FAIR CAMPAIGN FINANCING FUND TO THE DEPARTMENT OF LEGISLATIVE SERVICES UNDER SUBSECTION (E) OF THIS SECTION THAT ARE NOT USED TO PAY THE COST OF THE CONTRACT REQUIRED UNDER SUBSECTION (G) OF THIS SECTION MAY NOT BE RETAINED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF LEGISLATIVE SERVICES AND SHALL REVERT TO THE FAIR CAMPAIGN FINANCING FUND.
(G) THE DEPARTMENT OF LEGISLATIVE SERVICES SHALL CONTRACT WITH AN INDEPENDENT CONSULTANT TO COMPLETE A STUDY OF THE FOLLOWING ISSUES:
(1) WHETHER THE STATE BOARD OF ELECTIONS VOTING SYSTEM SUPPORT SERVICES CONTRACT APPROVED BY THE BOARD OF PUBLIC WORKS ON FEBRUARY 24, 2010, IS MAXIMALLY COST-EFFECTIVE AND INCLUDES ONLY SERVICES THAT ARE CLEARLY NECESSARY FOR THE CONDUCT OF ELECTIONS;
(2) WHETHER THE STATE BOARD OF ELECTIONS PROPOSED PROCUREMENT OF AN OPTICAL SCAN VOTING SYSTEM FOR DEPLOYMENT IN THE 2010 ELECTIONS WAS MAXIMALLY COST-EFFECTIVE AND INCLUDED ONLY EQUIPMENT THAT IS CLEARLY NECESSARY FOR THE CONDUCT OF ELECTIONS;
(3) THE NECESSITY OF THE STATE BOARD’S PROPOSED PROCUREMENT OF VOTING BOOTHS AND SUPPLY CARTS TO IMPLEMENT AN OPTICAL SCAN VOTING SYSTEM FOR THE 2010 ELECTIONS;
(4) THE AMOUNT, IF ANY, BY WHICH VOTING SYSTEM OPERATIONS AND MAINTENANCE COSTS WOULD BE REDUCED IF AN OPTICAL SCAN VOTING SYSTEM IS IMPLEMENTED;
(5) CURRENT AND PROJECTED OPERATIONS AND MAINTENANCE COSTS FOR THE STATE’S CURRENT VOTING SYSTEM;
(6) THE PROJECTED LIFE SPAN OF THE STATE’S CURRENT VOTING SYSTEM;
(7) A COMPARISON OF THE OVERALL COST OF CONTINUING TO USE THE STATE’S CURRENT VOTING SYSTEM AS OPPOSED TO IMPLEMENTING AN OPTICAL SCAN SYSTEM; AND
(8) RECOMMENDATIONS FOR PROCURING AND IMPLEMENTING AN OPTICAL SCAN VOTING SYSTEM IN A COST-EFFECTIVE MANNER.
(H) THE INDEPENDENT CONSULTANT SHALL CONSULT WITH VOTING SYSTEM EXPERTS AND REVIEW THE VOTING SYSTEM CONTRACTS AND POLICIES OF OTHER JURISDICTIONS IN MAKING FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS CONCERNING THE ISSUES ENUMERATED IN SUBSECTION (G) OF THIS SECTION.

(I) ON OR BEFORE DECEMBER 1, 2010, THE INDEPENDENT CONSULTANT SHALL SUBMIT A FINAL REPORT OF ITS FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE GOVERNOR AND, SUBJECT TO § 2-1246 OF THE STATE GOVERNMENT ARTICLE, THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY.

This amendment, which was not adopted by the Senate, is one of many issues to be reconciled by the budget conference committee.   Previous coverage of the new voting system procurements and the FY 2011 budget can be found on the MACo blog.

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