An agreement to have Ozaukee County purchase a new voting maching for the Town of Port Washington was approved by the town board last week.
“They’re going to buy the equipment so every community in the county is going to be using the same equipment,” Town Clerk Jenny Schlenvogt told the board. “I think it’s more than fair. It makes their job easier, and ours, too.”
The county will study the various machines that are available and purchase the one that works best and is the best buy, she added.
County Clerk Julie Winkelhorst said the county is poised to purchase new voting machines to replace those currently used by the municipalities at an estimated cost of $550,000.
The County Board agreed to buy the machines in September, and the Finance Committee recently reviewed an intergovernmental agreement spelling out the responsibility of both the county and its municipalities in regard to the purchase.
“We want all the municipalities to be on the same equipment,” Winkelhorst said. “We don’t want to have issues like some other counties have had.”
The new voting machines will replace those purchased by the county in 1998.
The existing machines are still reliable, but the technology, which is from 1991, is outdated, Winkelhorst said.
The optical scan equipment hasn’t been made since 2006, according to the resolution authorizing the purchase of the equipment approved by the County Board in September.
“They’re very trustworthy,” Winkelhorst said. “We just want to take care of things before there are problems.”
Port Washington City Clerk Susan Westerbeke agreed that the time to replace the machines is now.
“The machines are really tired,” Westerbeke said. “A number of us have had to have them repaired. This has been a very good quality machine, but you don’t want to wait until there are major issues before you replace them.”
The county hopes to jointly purchase the equipment with other counties in the state, which could potentially bring down the price, Winkelhorst said.
The county would buy 32 machines, enough to replace all of those used by municipalities during the April 2014 election, according to the memorandum of understanding. The municipalities, in turn, agree to use the machines through 2020. Otherwise, they will have to repay the county for the machines.
Any additional machines would be the responsibility of the municipality.
According to the agreement, the county would buy three machines for the City of Port Washington, one for each of the city’s polling places, and one for the Town of Port.
The Village of Grafton would also get three machines, while the town would get one. The villages and towns of Saukville, Belgium and Fredonia would each get one machine.
While the county would be responsible for buying the new machines, the municipalities would be responsible for training its election workers, the agreement states.
Although the county is expected to buy the machines next year, Winkelhorst said, they will probably not be used until the spring 2016 election — in part because there isn’t a fall 2015 election scheduled.