2013-04-23 (WY) – Some Wyoming voting machine maintenance costs double, triple

us-wyoming

While going through Black Box Voting archived materials from 2002-2013, I found several old items for which the links are now dead. When possible, I’ve tried to locate working links; in the case below, now I’ve got questions.

The original link led to notes from the Minutes of the Proceedings, Board of County Commissioners, for Laramie County Wyoming, which are surely still retained, somewhere, and subject to Wyoming Open Records Law. These notes contain the approved pricing of $6,850 for Diebold/Premier voting equipment software and firmware (which was acquired by Dominion Voting Systems in 2010), as follows:

“…Dominion Voting and Laramie County in the amount of $6850 for GEMS software and Premier voting equipment firmware from July 1, 2010 through June 30, 2011. . “1

A Google search for this old document led me to a newer one. Check this out:

Minutes of the Proceedings Board of County Commissioners Prepared by the Office of the Clerk of Laramie County

“Commissioner Hasenauer moved to approve an agreement and addendum between Laramie County and Dominion Voting systems in the amount of $21,600 per year for election equipment hardware and software maintenance from July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2015. Commissioner Ash seconded the motion which passed unanimously. The agreement and addendum is filed in central files with the County.”2

The two Laramie County amounts appear to be for essentially the same thing: ongoing maintenance and licensing fees for central tabulator and voting machines, but going from $6850 (2010) to $21,600 (2013).

I’ll add a third item here, also from the original Black Box Voting archives. This pertains to Carbon County, which uses the same equipment, and also shows a large increase in price, this time attributed to a “billing error”:

MINUTES OF THE BOARD OF CARBON COUNTY COMMISSIONERS REGULAR MEETING Tuesday, April 6, 2010 County Courthouse, Rawlins, Wyoming3

“Election Equipment

“Clerk Bartlett discussed a civil antitrust lawsuit that was filed against Election Systems & Software (ES&S) which claims that the merger between ES&S and Premier Election Solutions reduced competition in the voting machine industry. She advised that she currently contracts with ES&S for voting machine maintenance and ES&S may be forced to sell off the assets and the intellectual property used to make the voting machines used in Carbon County and two other Wyoming counties. She added that the County could still contract with ES&S or change to the new company. She also reported that because of billing errors in the past by ES&S the County’s maintenance will almost double next year.”

In short: There was an unexplained doubling or tripling of ongoing costs coinciding with the acquisition of Diebold/Premier Election Systems by ES&S and Dominion.

County Clerks were allowed to choose whether to go with ES&S, which first acquired Diebold/Premier Election Systems, or Dominion, which next acquired Diebold/Premier Election Systems.

This increase in cost raises questions as to whether there was a “signing bonus” or at least, just how the cost increases are itemized and justified on invoices. When dealing with procurement, this kind of irregularity should always trigger scrutiny because a common kickback mechanism is false invoicing, a method in which a government agency is overbilled with a handshake agreement to remit back, or “kickback” a portion of the billed amount to the purchasing official. At the time of this increase, two companies were engaged in an enthusiastic competition for the contract.

Background and explanations:

– GEMS software is the central tabulation system which aggregates voting machine results.

– “Firmware” is the computer code that resides on the chip in the voting machines, or the “hardware.”

– Election Systems & Software (ES&S) acquired Premier Election Systems, previously known as Diebold Election Systems, in 2009.

– An antitrust action ensued, in which ES&S was forced to divest itself of the Diebold intellectual property in 2010, though it was allowed to continue servicing former Diebold customers.

– County clerks were given a choice as to whether to continue contracting with ES&S to maintain and service their Premier/Diebold voting systems, or to switch to the new owner, Dominion, a Toronto-based company with a subsidiary in Denver.

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