Manatee County negotiating for new voting equipment, officials says

skennedy@bradenton.comMarch 18, 2014 

MANATEE -- County officials are trying to buy new voting equipment but have not yet reached a deal.

"We're still in the negotiation stage right now," said Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Mike Bennett. "We're trying to make sure that the agreement, when and if we sign it, is what we need."

Bennett confirmed Manatee County is negotiating with Election Systems & Software headquartered in Omaha, Neb.

It was one of two firms submitting written bids on new equipment for the county. The other firm was Dominion Voting Systems of Denver.

Representatives of both firms have already done formal demonstrations for county officials.

The purchase would involve high-speed scanners designed to count absentee ballots, which are now hand-fed into a machine, Bennett said.

The county is also interested in new equipment designed for handicapped people, said Bennett.

Ballot-on-demand equipment, which provides a simple way for voters to cast ballots at distant early voting sites, would not be part of the agreement, said Bennett.

Bennett declined to say how much money a deal with the Omaha firm might cost.

"I really don't want to say -- we're trying to negotiate," said Bennett. "If we get the terms we want, we will purchase this year."

Manatee County's voting equipment dates to 1997, elections officials have said.

Early voting at Longboat Key is underway as the town's March 25 election day draws

near.

Candidates on the ballot are contesting a town commission district-at-large seat and one for town commissioner District 3, according to the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections' website.

Early voting began March 10 and ends Saturday, said Kathy Dent, Sarasota supervisor of elections.

The early voting site is at Longboat Key Town Hall.

Voters in two precincts are participating, one in Manatee, the other in Sarasota, said Dent.

Asked how the election was going so far, she said: "Well, it's going fine."

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

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