Borough to amass accessible voting tools

The Kenai Peninsula Borough is taking steps to make elections extra accessible to folks with disabilities.

Following 2015’s municipal election, Richard Malley filed a grievance with the Alaska State Fee for Human Rights (ASCHR) alleging that the borough had discriminated towards him when it failed to offer a voting machine that might accommodate his imaginative and prescient incapacity.

The Individuals with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Assist America Vote Act of 2020 (HAVA) are amongst federal legal guidelines that require “full and equal alternative” for all eligible voters to vote, which incorporates having an accessible voting system for folks with disabilities.

ASCHR provided a conciliation settlement as a substitute of continuing to a public listening to, which the borough entered into in December 2018. As a part of that settlement, the borough agreed to undertake a voting system that enables for personal, impartial voting visually impaired residents.

Throughout a Tuesday assembly of the Borough Meeting’s Finance Committee, Meeting Vice President Brent Johnson mentioned that the borough might have glad Malley’s grievance adopting a hybrid election system that elevated mail-in voting. That possibility was defeated borough voters over the past election cycle.

As a substitute, the borough will proceed with a plan to buy seven and lease 26 new voting machines and their related tools. Beneath that plan, $105,816 could be moved from the overall fund to the capital venture fund for the acquisition of seven ADA-compliant voting machines and affiliation transport prices. Moreover, $148,976 could be used for the FY2021 annual lease value of 26 further ADA compliant techniques, which incorporates system {hardware}, implementation, software program licensing, help companies and $20,000 in transport prices.

Kenai Peninsula Borough Clerk Johni Blankenship mentioned Friday that the borough can have the chance to buy the leased voting techniques on the finish of two years, or to proceed leasing them.

Based on the laws, borough code allowed Blankenship to contract specialised supplies and provides with out a aggressive bid course of. 9 voting system suppliers in the US have been in a position to meet testing requirements and accreditation necessities which can be required to obtain Election Help Fee certification beneath HAVA to offer an ADA compliant voting system that may accommodate the borough’s wants since 2007.

Of these 9 suppliers, solely two responded to the borough’s request for quotes: Dominion Voting Techniques Inc. and Election Techniques & Software program, Inc. Of the 2, the borough decided that Dominion was the higher selection. Dominion’s ADA compliant system is utilized the State of Alaska and municipalities and boroughs throughout the state, together with the Kenai Peninsula Borough, which has used Dominion elections merchandise, tools and software program since 1999. The borough’s current tools, nevertheless, is outdated and isn’t ADA compliant.

Throughout Tuesday’s finance committee assembly, meeting member Invoice Elam questioned how snug individuals are with Dominion citing current nationwide discourse surrounding the corporate. Former U.S. President Donald Trump has made a number of false claims in regards to the firm, whose software program is utilized in many states. Because it pertains to the 2020 election, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Safety Company has mentioned that there is no such thing as a proof any voting techniques deletes, misplaced or modified votes, or was in any manner compromised, based on the Related Press.

“From a person’s perspective, I’m 100% snug with Dominion,” Blankenship mentioned Tuesday.

Borough IT Director Ben Hanson, who testified earlier than the committee on Tuesday, mentioned that along with Dominion being logistically extra smart for the borough, he did intensive analysis into claims made in regards to the firm and feels snug utilizing the machines within the borough.

“I’ve but to see a definitive, confirmable, corroborated piece of details about an exploit [or] a vulnerability that was disclosed,” Hanson mentioned Tuesday. “There’s a whole lot of high-level technical particulars which can be put out with no precise low-level corroborating parts of data.”

Hanson mentioned that the borough will even take further steps to isolate the community and that, ideally, the borough would have a single server set up like they do now, which might permit analog telephone strains to be bodily disconnected or for the modem to be turned off between elections.

“So that you’re not speaking about placing locks on the doorways, you’re speaking about not having doorways?” Elam requested.

“That’s the thought,” Hanson mentioned.

A public listening to on the ordinance is scheduled for the meeting’s April 20 assembly.

Attain reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at

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