Albany County is exploring avenues to address the county’s aging voting equipment and processes and will be holding a county wide public meeting to discuss the issue on March 21.

Brittany Vandeventer, Albany County election clerk, said the need to replace voting equipment has been looming for a few years. Vandeventer said county clerks across Wyoming, including Jackie Gonzales in Albany County formed a task force, Plan for Aging Voting, or PAV, to tackle the issue of updating equipment and processes. PAV also has developed a survey which will launch in the next few days.

“They’re the ones who developed the survey and started encouraging clerks across the state to have these town meetings, because we are looking at equipment that is nearing the end of its useful life,” Vendeventer said. “Vendors aren’t going to keep managing and maintaining that indefinitely.”

Within the next ten years, Vandeventer said, the current equipment and systems will be past the point of usefulness. She said the last major update across the state was in 2002, when the Help America Vote Act granted the state money to update the counties’ voting systems to utilize electronic voting and online registration. Vandeventer estimated that most election equipment in Wyoming counties is at least 12 years old.

This time, there is no HAVA to help fund the necessary updates, so the county is exploring various options to lower costs. Vandeventer said the county is hoping that it will receive some help from the federal or state government in the future, but right now they are looking at ways to cut costs.

During the March 21 meeting, which will take place in the County Commissioners’ chambers in the Albany County Courthouse, the county election team will discuss some voting system options such as mail-in ballots, which Vandeventer said would decrease the cost of elections on the state by 46 percent. Vote Centers, where a few voting locations are set up around the city, but residents can go to any one they prefer is also up for discussion, as is polling place consolidation.

“You have to hire judges for all of them [polling places], you have to print unique ballots for all of them, manage the equipment for all of them and, if we buy new equipment, we have to purchase that for all of them,” Vandeventer said. “So we’re hoping if we consolidate them that would save money in the long run.”

Vandeventer said the county could save $2,000 to $3,000 per election if they consolidated polling places.

The PAV survey will be available at the town meeting and also online early next week. Vandeventer said the county clerk’s office is encouraging everyone to attend the meeting and take the survey, to voice their opinions before any decisions are made.