MIAMI COUNTY — The Board of Miami County Commissioners approved an agreement with the state of Ohio for a new paper ballot voting system during their regular meeting on Thursday.
The Miami County Board of Elections voted in January to approve purchasing a paper ballot system with scanning equipment from Clear Ballot, which will be a system in which voters fill in a paper ballot that is then scanned and recorded.
The state of Ohio will be funding the cost the new voting equipment for approximately $1 million. On Thursday, the commissioners authorized to participate in a sublease-purchase agreement with the Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s office.
Commissioners’ Administrator Leigh Williams said Miami County will not be required to make any scheduled payments toward the purchase of the state-financed equipment to the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office. Commissioner Greg Simmons confirmed with Board of Elections staff the state will own the equipment for the first five years, and after those five years, it will be completely turned over to the county.
The county will be replacing approximately 470 direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting machines with 94 precinct scanners, 30 ballot-marking devices which are ADA-compliant, and two central scanners for provisional and absentee ballots.
Commissioner Jack Evans expressed disappointment in not receiving the documents of this agreement sooner than the day prior to Thursday’s meeting. Evans suggested the Board of Elections discuss items such as these in a work session prior to it coming to the commissioners for a vote of approval.
“Our signatures are the ones on the agreement, and I would like to have more time to look at it,” Evans said.
Simmons asked about the maintenance of the new voting machines.
Board of Elections Director Laura Bruns said the equipment will be under warranty with Clear Ballot for the first five years and they also have a maintenance contract with Clear Ballot.
Board of Elections Deputy Director Ian Ridgeway said the county will be responsible for maintaining the equipment after the first five years are up. Ridgeway said Clear Ballot’s current estimate for yearly maintenance at that point is approximately $45,000. He pointed out it will end up being a cost-savings from what the county is currently paying yearly to maintain the county’s current DRE voting machines.
“Currently, with the machines that we have, between licenses and warranties and all that, we spend between $55,000 and $65,000 a year,” Ridgeway said.
The Board of Elections office is currently working with the Miami County Prosecutor’s Office on finding out how they should dispose of the county’s current DRE voting machines. Ridgeway said they are required to keep it until they have the new voting machines.
“I would like to thank the elections board for looking into this. Fiscally, it’s very responsible,” Simmons said. “It’s not costing us anything.”
Evans said he was previously a little disappointed about the choice of going with a paper ballot system instead of a hybrid system, saying that he felt like the county was “taking a step back.”
“However, after talking with the Secretary of State’s Office, (the board of elections office), that these machines are well-liked, well-used in large counties and other counties, and apparently they are a good machine,” Evans said. “I’ve step-backed from my original comments, although I am still a little sad to see us kind of move back.”
The commissioners then authorized and signed a cybersecurity services agreement with CyberDefenses, Inc. under the direction of the Office Secretary of State’s Office.
The Ohio Secretary of State’s Office selected Miami County as one of three counties, including Wood and Hocking counties, to participate in this cybersecurity pilot program. The pilot program would include $13,000 worth of computer equipment, software, and licensing for the Board of Elections. If the pilot program is deemed successful by the state, the board would not have to purchase the $13,000 worth of services as would the remaining 85 Ohio counties if implemented.
“CyberDefenses resources shall perform IT and cybersecurity tasks with the goal of improving the cybersecurity of the county,” Williams said. The services will have no direct costs to the county, but there will be indirect costs of approximately $13,800 a year for licensing and maintenance fees, some of which are optional.
In other business, the commissioners authorized and signed an agreement for the operation of the Miami County Visitors and Convention Bureau for the period between June 2019 and May 2022. There are no changes from the last three-year agreement. Funding for the Miami County Visitors and Convention Bureau is derived from a 3 percent excise tax on all transactions involving transient lodging at hotel or motels within Miami County, according to the commissioners.
The commissioners also accepted the resignation of Miami County Animal Shelter Manager Kandice Kriebel, effective May 22.
The commissioners also approved the following purchases:
• 40 base stations, including remote breath units and wireless base station kits, from Alcohol Monitoring Systems, Inc. at a cost not to exceed $23,000 for Miami County Municipal Court
• Software and hardware support for Probate Court’s court database from Henschen and Associates at a cost of $1,000
• A Microsoft Surface Pro 6 Tablet with MS Office Standard 2019 License, 3-year warrant, InFocus 3D DLP Projector, Microsoft Surface dock, and related equipment for the Miami County Sheriff’s Office from MNJ Technologies at a cost not to exceed $3,223
• 18 digital radios, a base station, and charges for the West Central Juvenile Rehabilitation Facility from RG Communications, Inc., at a cost not to exceed approximately $9,538
• A contract with SmartBill, Ltd. for the monthly printing and mailing of water and sewer bills at a total cost not to exceed $30,000 for one year
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