Commentary: New Delaware voting system will be ‘best of both worlds’

This is in response to a commentary column regarding Delaware’s new voting system. (“The high price of voting in Delaware,” Feb. 17)

First, I need to correct inaccurate information in the column. Delaware’s current voting machines cannot be “hacked” since they are not now or never have been connected to the Internet. I have responded to this charge before, however, Common Cause persists in promoting this fallacy.

Delaware’s current voting machines were reaching the end of their life cycle. Replacing a voting system is not something that is done overnight, so we started with a request to the legislature for a task force to review what types of voting systems Delaware might want.

Elaine Manlove

We had presentations from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and the National Conference of State Legislators regarding how other states vote. Following those presentation, various vendors came to Delaware to demonstrate voting by mail, voting on paper which would go through a scanner, voting on a small electronic device with a voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) or a larger model, similar to what Delawareans have always voted on, but with a VVPAT.

Delaware then issued a RFP (Request for Proposal) but did not specify any one type of voting system. The RFP had four sections: voting system, electronic poll books, new voter registration/election management system and a new absentee system. Our hope was to be able to replace all four systems, but that was dependent upon the responses to the RFP.

We received responses from seven vendors and they were given to 12 individuals to score independently. We could not discuss with anyone or each other. The team included employees from the Department of Election, the Office of Management and Budget and the Department of Technology and Information.

Following the scoring process, all vendors were invited to Delaware for three days of demonstrations. The scoring team again evaluated and unanimously voted on not only the vendor but also the same voting system.

Ms. Hill alleges that we were not forthcoming about the price but that is not true. What we spent for this first year is under the $13 million threshold of funds ($10 million state and $3 million federal) that were available to Elections to purchase a new voting system.

Of course, there are costs in the years to follow. There are maintenance and licensing fees on any system and these will replace fees from our current vendors. She also does not allow for the fact that those fees cover much more than the voting system. We were able to purchase electronic poll books, a new absentee system and move from the state’s aging mainframe to a new election management/voter registration system.

All of these changes will improve the experience for voters in Delaware. This is truly the best of both worlds. Delawareans will not see a dramatic change in the way they vote but they will see a paper trail to be used for recounts and audits.

Elaine Manlove is Delaware Election Commissioner.

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