Manatee elections officials shop for high-tech voting equipment

skennedy@bradenton.comFebruary 1, 2014 

MANATEE -- Another presentation took place Friday featuring a company selling new, high-tech voting equipment, as Manatee County elections officials contemplate replacement of their 17-year-old system.

Representatives of Dominion Voting Systems, of Denver, demonstrated a variety of digital devices they sell, everything from an absentee ballot scanning device to a precinct tabulator, which tallies up to 130 ballot cards per minute.

"It gives you recount peace of mind," said Jay Bollenbacher, Dominion's account executive, of what he described as the company's reliable, well-designed machines.

It was the second such demonstration this week, with another company, Election Systems & Software, headquartered in Omaha, Neb., showing off their products on Monday.

Asked what his time frame might be, Assistant Supervisor of Elections Scott Farrington replied he had originally hoped to have new equipment ready to go by March.

But now there is no longer enough time for that, so Farrington hoped to have new equipment ordered and installed for the primary election, he said during a morning session at the Manatee County Emergency Opera

tions Center.

Florida's primary is set for Aug. 26.

"That would be our first election," Farrington said. "We wouldn't want the equipment before April 1."

Across the U.S., about 35 percent of U.S. voters cast ballots on Dominion Voting machines, company officials said.

Both voting equipment companies have submitted written proposals to the county, but they each contain so many variables that a dollar estimate for either one at this juncture is impracticable, said Dennis Wallace, procurement contracts and buyer manager for the county's purchasing division.

Asked how old their current equipment is, members of the elections staff replied that it dates to 1997.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.

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