County officials have passed an agreement to continue to use the services of Election Systems and Software.
The main item on the agenda for the July Full Commission meeting was passing the hardware and software license maintenance support services agreement with Election Systems & Software, LLC (ES&S).
Coffee County Mayor Gary Cordell informed the commission and attendees the passing of the agreement is something the county does periodically and encouraged commissioners to ask Elections Administrator Andy Farrar any questions regarding the agreement.
When opened for discussion, Commissioner Claude Morse asked Farrar if the rumor about ES&S was bought by Dominion Voting Systems to which Farrar said he reached out to ES&S regarding the rumor and was told it was incorrect.
“I did pose that question straight to them, and they said, ‘No sir that was misinformation,” Farrar said.
Morse then asked if there was a way to make sure who owns ES&S, and Farrar said he has talked to ES&S and was sent information. He admitted he was not able to recall who owned them at the time but he knew it was a holding company based in Omaha, Nebraska, but would reach out to the company’s legal team to provide more information if the commission wants it.
According to ES&S’s website, it is 100% American owned by McCarthy Group and individual members of ES&S management.
Morse said he was curious given the nationwide issues stemming from the presidential election and wanted to be sure that the software was not hackable. Farrar addressed the concern by stating the reporting software and computer used is not connected to any internet system and is solely based in the election commission office.
“Basically, someone would have to come into our office and hack our office to change anything there,” he said.
Farrar also informed the commission that the election commission audited the votes in the county the morning after the election and counted over 9,000 votes coming from every precinct, early voting and paper ballots that were brought in. He said the county was not off by one vote.
Commissioner Dennis Hunt asked Farrar what would happen if the commission did not approve of the agreement. He asked if the alternative would be purchasing new hardware and software, which would have the county spend more money. Farrar confirmed his query and added the state provides a grant of over $200,000 which pays for the machines, so if the county went a different direction then the full cost would be billed to the taxpayers.
Commissioner Michael Ray asked if this was the same company the county has been using and if there has been issues regarding election fraud in the county or any complaints against the software since using ES&S. Farrar said there had not been any cases of election fraud nor any complaints he could recall. Ray then said the commission should go ahead and vote on the agreement.
Commissioner Bobby Bryan said the agreement is the same agreement the commission passed in 2018 with the same company. He asked if there were any other counties or entities that use the same company and hardware. Farrar said Lincoln, Moore and Wilson counties use the same system, noting he’d spoken with Lincoln and Moore County officials; the counties had the same rates but Coffee County has more machines than they do.
Cordell said when it came to elections and election machines, Farrar was “the guy to go to” and appreciated his work. After discussion, the commission voted unanimously passed the agreement with 19 in favor. Commissioners Jim Fielding and Ashley Kraft were not present.