Legislative committees are ignoring requests for local government assistance in replacing voting equipment, Albany County Clerk Jackie Gonzales said.
“The County Clerks Association — and more so the (Wyoming Secretary of State’s Office Election Division) — formed by the county clerks, have approached the Joint Appropriations and Political Subdivision Committee about our concerns and needs, and it has fallen on deaf ears,” she said. “The committee did not want to even allow the County Clerks Association to do the work to seek avenues of funding and what we could do.”
Gonzales said the county’s equipment, which cost $500,000, was purchased using the Help America Vote Act of 2002 and replacing it would be expensive. She and other county clerks who have attempted to address this issue are not receiving support from the Joint Appropriations and Political Subdivision Committee, Gonzales said.
In an attempt to have the committee address the state’s aging equipment, Gonzales said she and several other county clerks went to one of the committee’s meetings to voice their concerns. While the clerks were at the meeting, committee members did not acknowledge the clerks until they were ready to end the meeting, she said.
“We have approached them to the extent that a couple of weeks ago I attended their last meeting in Lander,” Gonzales said. “They basically treated us with disrespect. I can’t say that is all members — I think it is a few members that have a sense of control that have been there that maybe need to be removed from that committee, so that the newer members can work with the County Clerks Association.”
The clerks association has also reached out to other state government legislators such as Wyoming Secretary of State Ed Murray and members of the Joint Corporations Committee to find support for providing voters with newer equipment with mixed results, she said.
“Secretary Murray is going to work with us in trying to obtain funding from his budget,” Gonzales said.
“The corporation committee did not even want to work with us, nor did they even consider … (letting us) gather the data, do the research, provide a comprehensive study and report back to the legislature.”
She said if the county clerks and the legislators assisting the clerks are not able to obtain new equipment for the 2018 and 2020 election cycles, the voters would have to use the county’s current equipment, which could led to lower voter turnout because people might not want to use the equipment.
“I think we are very good at maintaining the level of taking care of the equipment we have.” Gonzales said. “Right now, our current vender will basically keep the contract in place as far as support through 2020 and … at least for the two election cycles, we still have the election equipment that we will use.”
Finding funding for modern voting equipment is a time-consuming process, which might not be accomplished before the election cycle, Albany County Commissioner Heber Richardson said. The county’s current equipment could affect participation in the election by making voters conform to outdated technology, he said.
“I don’t think it is very tolerable to the public to consider the idea that the technology is getting so old that it could affect the quality of elections,” Richardson said. “It seems like the Joint Corporations Committee would wake up to that fact and understand that collectively — all over Wyoming — the public is not going to tolerate dinosaur equipment.”