With three months to go before the 2016 election year starts, the Osage Nation Election Board selected a Texas-based election company to provide support and equipment for conducting the upcoming elections.
At its Aug. 31 meeting, the Election Board voted unanimously to authorize Election Supervisor Alexis Rencountre the authority to work on contracting the services for Austin-based Hart Intercivic. Board members Shannon Lockett, Terry Hazen and Belle Wilson voted on the motion after hearing a teleconference presentation from the company that day.
Pending an approved contract, Hart Intercivic will work with the Election Office and board on the June 2016 election and primary election, if necessary. Rencountre said the office is pursuing the purchase of equipment and software for future elections and will move toward bringing more election day duties in-house once staff is trained on working with the equipment and software for future elections.
Shawn Phillips, of Hart Intercivic, said the company has new election software and equipment that is available for one-time purchase and recurring purchases would be for upgrades and maintenance. He said company officials are also available to provide on-site support and reporting on Election Day, which would help train the Election Office and board on using the equipment and software.
Phillips said the company has worked on elections in 17 states including Oklahoma using older election software used to count ballots, verify information and tabulating. He also said the company has previously worked with the Cherokee Nation and Osage County elections.
If a Hart Intercivic contract is approved, the Osage Nation will be the first entity in Oklahoma to use the company’s newly-developed election system called Verity.
Lockett, the Election Board’s chairwoman, said two companies responded to two requests for proposal calls as the board sought an outside company in seeking election support services, which includes ballot counting equipment and software.
According to the Hart Intercivic website, the Verity system allows voter ballots to be digitally scanned; includes disability-friendly equipment for those who are handicapped or visually-impaired; a high-speed scanner for absentee and by-mail ballots and tabulation and reporting software.
Phillips said in addition to the equipment and recurring costs for software update/ licensing, there would also be extra fees for having company personnel for on-site support and noted the equipment is designed to be user-friendly with training. “We like all of our customers to be as independent as they want to be,” he said.
Rencountre and the board members said they were pleased with the presentation, noting the Nation will save money if more of the Election Day work is brought in-house.
During the 2010, 2012 and 2014 elections, the Nation contracted with TrueBallot Inc., whose contract for those elections covered on-site visits from company personnel and their equipment was rented for reporting and tabulating. The company fell out of favor with the Nation and Election Board following an hours-long delay in reporting the results of the 2014 general election due to a software malfunction.
Up for re-election in 2016 is Congress persons Shannon Edwards, John Jech, John Maker, Archie Mason, R.J. Walker and Speaker Maria Whitehorn.
The 2016 election year ballot will feature ON Congressional candidates who will run for six seats and any referendum questions referred to voters.