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County may soon be buying new voting hardware

By Arpan Lobo/The Holland Sentinel • Apr 19, 2019 at 7:00 AM

WEST OLIVE — Two years after purchasing new voting equipment, the Ottawa County Clerk’s Office will have to buy close to $30,000 worth of new hardware again.

The Ottawa County Finance and Administration Committee voted Tuesday to submit a resolution to the County Board of Commissioners approving the purchase of 142 4G wireless modems, which will cost a combined $28,258.

The reason for buying new devices after just two years resides with Verizon Wireless’ decision to discontinue 3G service to modems on its network beginning in June. The county’s current modems are not 4G-capable.

The modems are used to send polling results directly to the County Clerk’s Office as soon as the votes are counted. From there, they are relayed to media outlets and the Michigan Secretary of State’s Office, which relay the results to the public.

Without the 3G service, Ottawa County won’t be able to rely on its current modems. But the announced upgrade just two years after the county purchased the 3G devices has sparked concern about the long-term volatility of the service technology.

“Is this something we’re going to have to do every time Verizon changes?” County Commissioner Philip Kuyers asked. “What if in two years they upgrade (again)?”

Other commission members also addressed concerns over the issue, citing the potential 5G service that may become available.

Ottawa County Clerk Justin Roebuck said that 5G is “revolutionary” compared to 4G, but that the service is still in development. He added that the new devices, which will be purchased from Texas company Hart InterCivic, have additional encryption measures.

“It’s one of those painful things that we’re hoping that we don’t have to do, but we have to rely on this technology to report results,” Kuyers said.

The County Board of Commissioners will vote on authorizing the purchase of the modems during its semiweekly meeting at the Fillmore Street Complex in West Olive on April 23.

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