Item Coversheet

Board Action Request

Item Description:
Authorize up to $912,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds and amend Agreement A130946 with Elections Systems and Software (ES&S) to use these funds for the replacement of Hennepin County’s Central Ballot Scanners

BE IT RESOLVED, that the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners hereby authorizes up to $912,000 of its federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act ("Federal Pandemic Funds") to purchase eight replacement Central Ballot Scanners, and that County Administration be authorized to negotiate and sign the amendment to Agreement A130946; and the Controller be authorized to transfer or disburse funds as directed. 


Absentee voting rates in Hennepin County increased significantly in 2020 to approximately 70% of total voters, compared to approximately 30% in previous years, and is expected to remain high for elections held in 2022 and 2024. In a voter survey conducted by the Elections Division in November 2021, 60% of voters indicated they prefer to vote by absentee ballot going forward. Over 75% of all absentee ballots cast in Hennepin County are counted on Central Ballot Scanners. Replacing current Central Ballot Scanners with new upgraded models will enable the county to continue to effectively manage the increase in absentee ballots. Upgraded Central Ballot Scanners feature hardware improvements that improve the efficiency of ballot processing, ultimately supporting timely results reporting despite the larger volume of absentee ballots. Furthermore, half of existing Hennepin County Central Ballot Scanners are showing signs of age with increased equipment breakdown rates and service needs. By replacing all units simultaneously, the Elections Division can maximize ballot processing efficiency and create a uniform hardware life cycle across the entire fleet of Central Ballot Scanners. The Central Ballot Scanners provided by Hennepin County’s voting equipment vendor Elections Systems & Software (ES&S) have received federal voting equipment certification and are certified for use in Minnesota by the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State. By upgrading to the newest model at this time, Hennepin County can take advantage of the current increased trade-in value of the county’s existing Central Ballot Scanner models due to high demand for equipment in other parts of the country.

The American Rescue Plan Act provides that money from the Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Fund may only be used to cover certain costs incurred between March 3, 2021, and December 31, 2024, including costs to respond to the public health emergency with respect to the COVID–19 or its negative economic impacts. Under the available U.S. Department of Treasury guidance, this category of eligible costs can include “providing government services” to the extent of a reduction in the recipient’s general revenue due to the pandemic. The County may “use payments from the Fiscal Recovery Funds to avoid cuts to government services and, thus, enable [the County] to continue to provide valuable services.”

Impact/outcomes: Approval of this request to enable the county to use American Rescue Plan Act funds to replace Central Ballot Scanners is critical to addressing the volume of mail absentee voting expected in 2022 and 2024.

This board action request to replace Central Ballot Scanners directly impacts our ability to administer accurate and secure elections in the county. This request aligns with Hennepin County disparity reduction efforts by ensuring integrity and security of a key component in the administration of elections in our county, allowing residents the ability to continue to confidently participate in our democracy, hold elected officials accountable, and have a voice in important issues affecting themselves and their communities. Elections and voting directly impact all disparity domains.