Mail Tribune/File Photo Jackson County Clerk Chris Walker processes ballots on a Bell & Howell tabulator at the Jackson County Elections Office in this file photo from 2014. Walker submitted demands to the state for about $165,000 in election equipment and security upgrades earlier this month.
From bulletproof glass to the new electronic signature scanner, the Jackson County Office of Elections has submitted a six-figure request to the state to find ways to make local elections more modern and secure.
About half of a “wish list” of about $165,000 that Jackson County Clerk Chris Walker emailed the Oregon Secretary of State’s office earlier this month concerns strengthening physical security in the public area of the Medford Elections Office.
Walker estimates it would cost between $75,000 and $80,000 to install bulletproof glass, bulletproof interior sliding transaction windows in the lobby and bulletproof tarps under the counters, according to a copy of the “Jackson County equipment needs 2022 -23” email Walker sent the state on March 1.
“Josephine County did it with some of their grants last year,” Walker said, adding that while it was “not a huge capital project,” the expense would be “beyond” a normal budgetary expenditure.
Funding for the request would come from about $2 million the Oregon Legislature allocated to the secretary of state’s office in 2021 to cover new election materials, most of which has not been spent.
The 2021 funds were intended to cover items such as postmark barcode scanners, but Walker said he purchased two postmark scanners last year.
Beginning with this election, mail-in ballots can now be accepted late provided there is proof that the post office received the ballot on the day the polls closed.
Election officials typically refer to the date on the postmark above the ballot envelope, according to Walker. The scanners will only be used in the rare cases where officials need to check the orange barcode data at the bottom of all mail processed.
“It’s not an exact science, but the only time we would use it is if we couldn’t physically read a postmark,” Walker said.
Despite the new leniency for ballots received in the mail after the close, Walker recommends last-minute voters drop off their ballots at official ballot boxes. If a mail-in ballot is left in a mailbox after the last USPS pickup of the day — primary ballots are due Tuesday, May 17 — it will be postmarked the following day and therefore will not count.
“If you’re waiting until the last day, I strongly recommend that you use the official ballot boxes,” Walker said. “Mostly because it’s new.”
Walker said counting equipment at the Jackson County Elections Office is “very new” and undergoes perpetual software and scanning system upgrades through the state-certified election provider. federal government Clear Ballot.
Other demands for the Secretary of State’s office include approximately $15,000 for an automatic signature verification module, $50,000 for two new sets of Fujitsu scanners, and $5,000 for two laptops provided by Clear Ballot.
“With the way the county is growing, you always want redundancy,” Walker said.
Walker said she was interested in the automatic signature verification system because election officials currently have to individually inspect the signature on the ballot. The electronic system removes the “human element” from an important part of the electoral system.
The most mundane items on Walker’s list of demands include $2,000 for an envelope sealer to accommodate ballot envelopes filled out by voters at the elections office, $2,000 for a new notification card printer voters and between $5,000 and $10,000 for shelves that would facilitate access to envelopes. keep them in boxes stacked on top of each other.
The application is only in its infancy. Walker said she’s not sure how much state funding will be allocated to Jackson County, but she knows state funds won’t be available until around July, when the county in will be in its next exercise.
“We know they’re engaged,” Walker said of the secretary of state’s office. “We will certainly take advantage of the funds that are available to us.”
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