Elections board scrambles as truck rentals canceled for voting equipment

The+Macon-Bibb+County+Board+of+Elections+needs+three+26-foot+trucks+with+lifts+to+move+voting+equipment+to+31+precincts.+

Liz Fabian

The Macon-Bibb County Board of Elections needs three 26-foot trucks with lifts to move voting equipment to 31 precincts.

Days before trucks were to haul voting equipment to the polls, the Macon-Bibb County Board of Elections was told Penske would not be able to fulfill the request due to a change in corporate policy.

“They have a corporate order from their corporate offices that they are not to rent to any governmental facilities any longer,” said Henry Ficklin of the Bibb County Board of Elections. “I don’t know whether that’s a ploy to slow down the election but I’m sure other election boards use them to move their equipment, especially in Georgia, because we have all this new equipment that has to be moved.”

Board of Elections Chairman Mike Kaplan was told the company will not rent to tax-exempt entities anymore, although Macon-Bibb made a reservation months ago for three, 26-foot trucks with lifts, he said.

“We’re working diligently to work this out,” Kaplan said. “It’s not just us. I’ve heard it’s board of elections offices all across Georgia. … It’s fairly urgent because we have to start delivering stuff Sunday.”

Penske did rent trucks to Macon-Bibb in July, but officials only learned of the change in policy in recent days.

Michael Richardson of the Penske Truck Rental location in Macon has been working with local elections boards and governments to provide truck rentals in the past, including the three Macon-Bibb used to transport voting machines in July.

Richardson deferred to the corporate communications office for a formal response but did say: “We’re working closely with the (Macon-Bibb) board of elections to fulfill our obligations to them.”

Kaplan received word late Friday afternoon that Penske’s office in Atlanta approved rentals for Macon-Bibb County but he was not sure whether other counties were getting able to get trucks.

“Mr. Richardson really came through for us,” he said.

After 5 p.m. Friday, Penske’s Vice President for Marketing and Communications & Events Randolph P. Ryerson emailed the Center for Collaborative Journalism saying they looked into the matter internally.

“Our truck rental department is honoring reservations related to boards of elections. Our local offices are reaching out to let the respective customers know as soon as possible. We regret any concern this may have caused,” Ryerson stated in the email.

Ficklin said the county has received approval to purchase trucks in the future with a $557,000 grant recently awarded by the Center for Tech and Civic Life.

Contact Civic Reporting Senior Fellow Liz Fabian at 478-301-2976 or [email protected]