Dale commission talks electronic poll books

Thirty-two Alabama counties are not yet using electronic poll books and Dale County is in that number.

That may change after the Dale County Commission gave Dale County Probate Judge Sharon Michalic the go-ahead at the meeting June 23 to pursue an electronic update.

Michalic told the commission that Secretary of State John Merrill has set aside a portion of the State of Alabama’s 2020 Help America Vote Act funding to enable those 32 counties to acquire electronic poll books.

Other Alabama counties that are not yet using electronic poll books are Geneva, Pike, Crenshaw, Covington, Conecuh, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Marshall, DeKalb, Winston, Lamar, Fayette, Walker, Calhoun, Cleburne, Pickens, Clay, Sumter, Greene, Hale, Perry, Lee, Choctaw, Wilcox, Butler, Bullock, Russell, Clarke, Monroe, Mobile and Escambia Counties.

“The electronic poll book not only provides a secure way to authenticate a voter as they check-in and expedite the check-in process at your polling place on election day, they also significantly reduce the risk of errors by local election officials in administrating Alabama’s Crossover Voting Law,” explained Deputy Secretary of State and Chief of Staff David A. Z. Brewer in a letter to the probate judges in the 32 counties not yet using electronic poll books.

“The set aside in funding has a goal of enabling your county to acquire electronic poll books starting with the Nov. 30 General Election,” Brewer said. “The funding will only be for the Nov. 3 General Election and enable your county to acquire the tablet and basic gear which has the most cost associated to it.

“After the Nov. 3 General Election, your county will need to assume the costs for annual software maintenance and other costs,” Brewer said in his letter. “We want to start this process soon so your county commission will not be responsible for paying the total costs for the Nov. 3 General Election.”

In unrelated business, the commission agreed to enter a merchant processing agreement with Heartland for online garbage payments. Blankenship said there will be a $2.50 per transaction fee for those using the online payment service. “On a $14 water bill, that may seem like a lot of money but the city of Ozark charges $3.50,” he said.

In other business, the commission voted to hire the Ozark law firm of Bull and Schimeneck to serve as assistant county attorneys for $500 a month. Blankenship said that longtime Dale County Attorney Henry Steagall has served for more than 40 years and hiring an assistant to train with him is a proactive move. “We’ve been kicking this issue down the road,” Blankenship said. “If they start working with Henry now it will alleviate some of the blow when Henry retires.”

The next meeting of the Dale County Commission is Tuesday, July 14, in the Dale County Government Building in Ozark. A work session begins at 10 a.m. A voting meeting immediately follows. Both meetings are open to the public

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