PROVO — The Utah County Commission's decision Tuesday to get on board with the state-approved Diebold voting machines was more about necessity than efficiency.
"I'm not thrilled that the state forced us into one vendor," Commission Chairman Jerry Grover said. "I'm not saying the state was horrible, but it definitely could've been better."
The state has threatened to withhold federal money from counties that do not accept Diebold as the voting machine vendor. Utah County solicited bids for voting machines and received two that were lower than Diebold's price, but ultimately went with the state's plan. Losing access to the federal funds was a big factor in the commission's decision, Grover said.
"Number one," Grover said, "we didn't have a problem with our voting system as is; I had no great inkling to alter it. But we had this federal mandate — and only partially funded at that — and so we were forced into it.
"We were forced to do it in a way that required us to use taxpayer dollars. People might think it's nice to have touch-screen voting, but I'm not sure that the money couldn't have been better spent on child immunizations or something similar."
While the machines will be provided at no cost to the county, Grover estimates the new system will cost the county $300,000-$400,000 to increase the number of election judges, to pay for more storage space, and to set aside money to replace machines that wear out.
The commission voted on the matter Tuesday instead of next week — the state deadline for a decision is Sept. 9 — because Commissioner Steve White will not be present at the Sept. 6 meeting, the last session that will be held before the deadline.