WALKER-Auditor-Treasurer Sharon Anderson obtained county board approval Tuesday to seek requests for proposal from three Minnesota certified companies which provide election voting equipment and services.

The county's current voting equipment has been in use since 2006, with some components dating to 2002.

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Cass has 73 voting precincts, with 42 voting entirely by mail ballot. There are about 18,000 registered voters.

The county tabulates centrally the mail and absentee ballots for state, federal, county and special elections.

Cass will receive requests for proposals until Jan. 15 and hold vendor demonstrations Jan. 18. The auditor-treasurer office expects to recommend one vendor to the county board by Feb. 16. The new system would be ready for use for the Aug. 9 primary election.

Vendors will be asked to present buy or lease options for a 10-year period, with costs for training, supplies and maintenance agreements. A lease to buy option after five years is also sought.

The new machines will have battery backup and be capable of transmitting vote totals not only from precincts to the county courthouse, but also directly to the state. It will scan ballots, so the scans can be used for recounts without going to original paper ballots. All ballot boxes will be lockable.

Cass may choose to sell or otherwise dispose of its current AutoMark devices to the new vendor or anyone else within 60 days of selecting a new system.

Bids must remain open to exercise up to May 1.

Anderson also obtained board approval Tuesday to spend $9,750 to have Secure Digital Solutions of St. Louis Park check the county's credit card and e-check contract service system the county uses for any data breaches or gaps that could lead to breaches.

Cass has accepted credit cards and e-checks for property tax payments to the county since 2003. Anderson said she expects about 10 percent of taxpayers to use this service in 2015. A separate business processes these payments.

The auditor-treasurer office processes automatic withdrawal payments for taxes without using a separate processing firm and will not be part of this data breach search.