State Moving Forward With Optical Scan Voting System

In the State Board of Elections budget analysis, the Department of Legislative Services provided an update on the State’s move back to a paper-based optical scan voting system.  The State Board of Elections (SBE) has estimated that planning and implementation of the system from fiscal 2013 to 2018 will cost at least $46.8 million.  Counties governments are on the hook for half of this cost.

Although legislation passed in 2007 for the State to move back to an optical scan voting system, cost containment forced the State to delay moving forward. According to the budget analysis:

Funds were provided in fiscal 2009 and 2010 to implement the optical scan system, allowing the legislation to take effect. However, the amounts were ultimately reduced in cost containment actions, and nearly all of the remainder was cancelled. The fiscal 2011 budget included no funding for the system; as a result, SBE never finalized the procurement of the new system that was ongoing at the time of the fiscal 2011 budget release.

The fiscal 2012 budget also did not include funding for the new system. The fiscal 2013 budget initially did not contain funding for the new system; however, a deficiency appropriation of $50,000 was later provided to begin the planning for the procurement of the new system. The fiscal 2014 budget included $1.15 million in funds for the planning phase of the procurement. These funds were to be used for consultants for the project, including assistance in writing the request for proposals (RFP).

The fiscal 2015 allowance includes a total of $4.1 million, of which half is included in the Major IT Development Project Fund, and half is included in the budget of SBE.

Now that funds have been appropriated in the budget, SBE has moved forward with procuring and implementing the system.

SBE continues to conduct the planning activities for the new voting system. SBE has been in the process of hiring personnel support and, as noted, several positions have already been filled. The project manager and functional project manager began work in late October 2013. Following the selection of these individuals, SBE began the process of hiring other necessary positions through a task order RFP.

SBE has also developed a governance team for the project. Through the fall, the team reviewed comments from regional meetings held with LBEs. SBE has begun the process of working with the Department of General Services to identify a temporary central warehouse for the transition.

In addition, SBE decided to pre-certify voting systems prior to the release of the RFP. Under previous RFPs, the certification happened later in the process, rather than before the bidding of the contract. To date, SBE has received one system for certification from Dominion Voting Systems, Inc. In November 2013, SBE held a public demonstration of the system. SBE expects that the pre-certification process will continue through the first quarter of calendar 2014.

The new system is to be in place for the April 2016 presidential primary.

Additional coverage and history can be found on Conduit Street.

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