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Grant will buy new election equipment in Pierce County’s municipalities

Most Pierce County municipalities will get new voting equipment in time for the November Presidential Election.

The Pierce County Board’s Finance & Personnel Committee heard a presentation last week about grant funding that will help Pierce County cities, villages and towns get new equipment to replace aging machines.

A memo to the committee from County Clerk Jamie Feuerhelm states: “In July of this year, the county was informed of a few grants that would be available to the county and local municipalities. One of those grants is called the Routes to Recovery grant. In summary, the parameters of this grant would allow municipalities to add or replace their voting equipment.”

And that’s much needed throughout the county.

“Of the 25 municipalities in Pierce County, 19 of those have again equipment that will become ‘unsupported’ in two years. A number of those 19 don’t have a device that counts absentee ballots at all,” Feuerhelm wrote.

With COVID-19 forcing many voters the absentee direction, that is a major concern.

“Since April of this year, the number of absentee ballot request has increased dramatically,” said Feuerhelm.

Feuerhelm confirmed that the county machine purchases would qualify, and he moved ahead with negotiations that ultimately saves municipalities $1,000 per machine.

The Finance & Personnel Committee agreed with Feuerhelm’s request to set up a cooperative agreement with participating municipalities to ensure the county is reimbursed. Most municipalities have the matter on its agendas this month.

Feuerhelm recommend to the committee to “approve the purchase of the required amount of voting equipment per each municipality’s request.

“Pierce will then purchase the equipment and require municipalities to designate the appropriate amount of funds from their respective… accounts be allocated to Pierce County.”

The county then will submit a claim to the state Department of Administration that is overseeing the grant.

The machines are being purchased through Elections Systems & Software.

Two different types of machines are being purchased, depending on what municipalities use, with a total of 57 machines on their way. The total purchase will be $220,500.

Only the Town of El Paso, the Town of Hartland and the City of Prescott are not participating. See the accompanying chart to see what is being purchased for each municipality.

The Pierce County Board will give its final vote on the voting machine plan at its Sept. 22 meeting.