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Secretary Simon Announces Grant Awards to Replace Aging Election Equipment

January 29, 2018

Counties and cities requested $13.3 million; nearly double the amount available

SAINT PAUL — Today, Secretary of State Steve Simon announced that his office has awarded $7 million to counties and cities to assist with the purchase of new voting equipment.

In 2017, Secretary Simon’s push to replace Minnesota’s aging election equipment was signed into law with broad bipartisan support. The legislature authorized $7 million in grant funding to assist with the purchase of new voting equipment. It provides up to a 50 percent match for mandatory equipment, such as optical scan precinct counters, optical scan central counters, or assistive voting devices; and up to a 75 percent match for electronic rosters. The bill was authored by Rep. Tim O’Driscoll (R-Sartell) and Sen. Kiffmeyer (R-Big Lake).

The Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State received grant applications from 85 counties and 17 municipalities, for a total request of nearly $13.3 million—nearly double the $7 million of available grant matching funds. Of these jurisdictions, 59 requested $5,097,051.17 in matching funds for electronic rosters and 97 requested $8,199,605.78 in matching funds for mandatory equipment. To view a list of grant requests by and awards to local jurisdictions, click here.

“This is an important step for election integrity by ensuring that voting equipment is up to the standards Minnesotans expect,” said Secretary Simon. “However, local governments requested nearly double the amount of available funds. It is clear that replacing our state’s aging election equipment is an ongoing need.”

The Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State made grant applications available to counties, cities, towns, and school districts starting on Sept. 6, 2017. Applications were due by 4 p.m. on Dec. 15, 2017.

Other Important Dates for the Grant Application:

  • Feb. – March 2018: Grant contracts signed and returned, funds provided to jurisdictions
  • Feb. 2018 – Aug. 2019: Equipment purchased
  • Aug. 31, 2019: Unused funds must be returned to Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State
  • Sept. – Dec. 2019: Possible second round of grants from unused/returned funds
  • June 30, 2020: Unused second round funds must be returned to Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State

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BACKGROUND
In the aftermath of the 2000 Florida presidential recount and the controversy surrounding state election equipment (e.g. hanging chads), Congress passed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in 2002 and provided one-time federal funds to purchase election equipment to all 50 states. That election equipment, which has a lifespan of 10 to 15 years, is aging and needs to be replaced.

A report released by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University in September 2015 revealed that 43 states, including Minnesota, would be using election equipment in 2016 that was at least 10 years old.

While Secretary Simon did not anticipate any issues arising in the 2016 election, he got to work immediately after taking office to address this looming issue. In 2015, he put together a group of city and county leaders, election officials, and legislators from across the state to develop solutions to bring to the Legislature. It was determined it will cost $28 million to replace the election equipment counties purchased with HAVA funds.

A PROBLEM FACING ALL 50 STATES
The issue of aging election equipment is a problem facing all 50 states. For example, New Mexico, a state with less than half the population of Minnesota, spent $12 million to purchase new equipment in 2014. In late 2014, Maryland estimated the cost to replace the state’s tabulators would be approximately $28 million and the state approved $14 million assist local governments in offsetting the cost to replace equipment. And Michigan’s State Administrative Board recently approved $82.1 million in spending over the next 10 years to replace and support new voting equipment in the state, with the state covering about $40 million of the overall cost.

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