MANSFIELD -- The Richland County Board of Elections may upgrade its voter registration system, changing vendors for the first time since 2004.
The change to Triad Governmental Systems would be a benefit to county residents and candidates through increased and easier access to constantly updated information, according to local elections officials.
It would also benefit local board of elections workers, according to Matt Finfgeld, director of the elections board, and Jane Zimmerman, deputy director, who told commissioners the new registration system would not impact the voter tabulation software currently being used.
A total cost for the new agreement was not discussed, though Finfgeld said it would be "under $100,000" and that the annual maintenance agreement would be less than the county now pays.
Finfgeld and Zimmerman said the local elections board would discuss the potential conversion on Tuesday and would then come to commissioners with a final dollar amount.
Later on Tuesday, the board voted 4-0 to allow negotiations to begin on a contract with Triad.
The bipartisan duo, along with Triad elections specialist Jose Trejo, discussed the potential conversion on Tuesday with county commissioners, pointing out that 68 of Ohio's 88 counties have converted to the Xenia-based provider.
Richland County would become the 69th, joining the likes of Ashland and Knox counties. The new vendor and system would not have any effect on the actual processes residents use to become registered voters.
Trejo told commissioners that Triad guarantees that its client counties remain compliant with frequent changes in state laws and voter registration requirements, a service that is part of an annual maintenance agreement.
"I know other vendors who don't do that," Trejo said. "They go to their counties and say, 'This is how much this is going to cost you.' We don't ... we believe that's the way to do things.
"We believe that a county should trust us to have a compliant system," Trejo said.
The new software would provide many more tools to residents, voters and candidates, according to Trejo, who demonstrated some of the information on other county board of elections websites only available now by calling or writing the local board.
For example, voters can complete and print out an absentee ballot application, which can then be mailed into the elections board. Local campaign finance reports will be available, as would database searches of registered voters, down to the precinct and individual voter level.
"I think this is a good thing from a voter transparency point of view," Commissioner Tony Vero said. "At the same time, the public's gonna want to know what the price tag is going to be."
Finfgeld said elections officials had met with the Richland County prosecutor's office and gotten approval to contract with Triad without seeking additional bids.
Trujo said that's possible because Triad is the only vendor offering all of the options it provides.
"Once the board selects us, I'll get down to the penny on what it will cost," Trujo said.
Finfgeld and Zimmerman told commissioners they had spoken with elections officials in other counties using Triad and had heard "nothing but positives" about the services provided.
Also on Tuesday, commissioners approved spending $29,436.12 in COVID-19 CARES Act funds for the Richland County Common Pleas Court General Division for upgrading audio/visual technology.
Judges Brent Robinson and Phillip Naumoff, in a letter to commissioners on June 30, said they specifically needed to replace the aging sound system that created problems during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The Court struggled to provide quality sound," the judges wrote. "Defendants in custody, jurors who were unable to sit in the jury box due to social distancing, court reporters and spectators viewing jury trials found it difficult to hear court proceedings.
"The use of video technology gave the Court the ability to continue to provide access to justice," the judges wrote.