Washington County faces spending more than $750,000 for new voting machines and a central counting machine in 2013. But the county also stares at a hidden cost next year if Minnesota voters approve a proposed state constitutional amendment requiring voters show identification at the polls. That was the message from Property Records and Taxpayer Services Director Jennifer Wagenius Tuesday during a Board of Commissioners budget workshop. Although the majority of the department’s projected 2013 revenue, more than $5.684 million, comes from non-levy fees collected by recording documents, assessments and revenue collected at license centers, Wagenius said her office will rely more on levy revenue to replace election equipment.
She told commissioners it has become difficult for her department to find replacement parts for the county’s 13-year-old voting equipment and her department must use several central counting machines to count absentee ballots. “We’re just looking at some equipment,” she said, adding that Secretary of State Mark Ritchie’s office will certify voting equipment that counties can purchase next year.
Money to buy the new voting equipment comes from a $264,800 federal grant, with $179,573 that must be used by March 31, 2014, and levy and county program aid of $451,700. And Wagenius said her department plans to buy one new central counting machine that can handle ballots from the county’s 87 precincts to replace the several machines and memory cards handling the task now. She adds the new machine also cuts down on employee overtime. But Wagenius warned commissioners the county could face unknown costs if the voter ID constitutional amendment passes in November.