San Rafael, CA – The County of Marin’s equipment for conducting elections is 20 years old, but the Marin County Elections Department will receive new equipment now that the Board of Supervisors has approved a contract with a vendor. The new system offers features that will modernize election administration and make counting ballots more efficient.
The County will spend $810,198 with Dominion Voting Systems for its Democracy Suite 5.2 voting system. The company’s tabulation products are used in 20 California counties, including Sonoma, Napa and Contra Costa counties. Marin County Registrar of Voters Lynda Roberts said she expects to start the installation process this summer and use it for the first time for the November 2019 election.
“The current system has reached the end of its useful life, and we want to ensure we have the best system available in time for next year’s March 2020 primary and November 2020 presidential elections,” Roberts said.
Marin regularly has the highest voter turnout rates in California. Turnout in November 2020 is likely to exceed 90 percent, Roberts said. About 75 percent of local voters choose to vote by mail, often on or just before Election Day, a rate that is also higher than most other counties.
“It will still take time for our staff to prepare ballots for counting,” Roberts said. “Election laws have changed in recent years, allowing people to register and vote on Election Day, for example, which requires manual verification. But the new equipment should allow staff to count ballots more quickly once prepared and verified.”
Roberts said the timing of the upgrade is optimal because the new system will be in place well before the 2020 primary and presidential elections. Also, in recent months the California Secretary of State’s Office decertified all voting systems not tested and certified to the state’s newest California Voting System Standards (CVSS), which included Marin’s current system. The new Dominion system meets those new standards.
The project also will include replacement of antiquated voting machines designed for people with disabilities.
The upgrade has been several years in the making with staff preparing to replace the voting system by 2019 to ensure improved efficiency in the process and meet demands of the growing number of vote-by-mail ballots. In November 2018, Elections issued a request for proposals asking vendors for bids on a modern voting system to replace its equipment that dates to 1999. Most replacement parts are no longer made for the existing system.
Three bids were received by the County’s January 2019 deadline. Residents were invited to participate in a publicly open vendor demonstration in February. A team consisting of staff from the Elections Department, the Information Services and Technology Department and the County Administrator’s Office, along with members of the Marin County Election Advisory Committee, independently reviewed and ranked the three bids before recommending the Dominion system.
The County is using a combination of federal and state funding to purchase the new system. Annual warranties and licensing fees are expected to be $124,000, and the County’s annual budget will be adjusted to account for it.
The Elections Department is in Suite 121, Marin Civic Center, 3501 Civic Center Drive in San Rafael. For more information, call the Elections Department at 415-473-6441
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