In an effort to keep democracy running when the power goes out, Denton County elections officials want to buy a nearly $100,000 trailer to be put to use as soon as the 2020 primaries.
County commissioners are expected to approve for purchasing and elections officials to buy the mobile voting trailer during Tuesday’s Commissioners Court meeting.
If the purchase is approved, Denton County will be the first in Texas to go into business with BizBox, an Arizona-based company whose patented product has been used by local governments in the Los Angeles area, Denver, New Mexico and Illinois as mobile voting stations, according to the company’s website.
In Denton County, the trailer will serve as a backup polling place in case a power outage or natural disaster disrupts election-day operations, Frank Phillips, the county’s elections administrator, said Monday.
On board will be the polling equipment and volunteers people might see at a regular polling site at a civic center or church.
“It would just be used like a polling site,” Phillips said.
What’s different: This one will come with its own generator and hooked up to a Denton County-owned pickup.
Last November, on an election day when voters were casting ballots in the 2018 midterms, a power outage at a church in Bartonville temporarily prevented poll workers from scanning ballots. The episode did not prove catastrophic for voting that day, elections officials said at the time, but it is an example of what Phillips and other officials hope to avoid by using the trailer.
While polling place workers are trained for such situations, the mobile trailer will speed up the time it takes to get the voting site back online, Phillips said. Whereas a backup generator and emergency ballots were needed in Bartonville last year, a future outage would mean county employees could simply park the trailer outside the crippled polling place and keep the line of voters moving.
“In the amount of time it takes up to go out to a polling site, we could be back up and running,” Phillips said of using the mobile center.
In Denver, officials used the mobile voting trailer in 2017 as part of a campaign to register more voters. Phillips said the trailer will only be used for contingency in case of a bad situation.
If the plan is approved by Denton County commissioners, the county will pay BizBox about $99,000 for the trailer. Details like how many ballot stations and workers fit inside the trailer must still be finalized. Phillips said the company would build the trailer this fall and have it ready by the time the primaries start in the spring.