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Politics

Goodbye to most touch screens?

By ALISA ULFERTS
Published February 2, 2007


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photo
[Times file photo (2004): Willie J. Allen Jr]
A poll worker helps Lillian Odom vote on an electronic voting machine in St. Petersburg.

Gov. Charlie Crist formally announced his plans Thursday to spend $32.5-million to replace the electronic voting machines in the 15 Florida counties that use them with machines that use optical scan paper ballots.

Crist unveiled his proposal in Palm Beach County, site of the infamous "butterfly ballot" and "hanging chad." State lawmakers must approve his plan, which Crist hopes will put to an end, once and for all, to the controversy of Florida elections.

 

How soon will the new machines be in place?

If lawmakers approve, the machines will be used in the fall 2008 primary and general elections.

 

How much will this cost the 15 counties that have to switch?

Nothing. Crist wants to use state money to pay for the optical scan machines.

 

Does this mean no more touch screen machines at all?

No. Federal law still requires an electronic voting machine in every polling place to assist visually impaired voters. But under Crist's proposal, each machine will be retrofitted with a printer, which will feed a paper record of each vote into a locked box in case there's a manual recount.

 

Can anyone use the touch screen machines intended for the blind?

Yes. Sighted voters who use the touch screen machine will be able to see the paper record printing -under glass - as they vote. If they change their minds or correct mistakes, that will also be noted on the paper record. This is known as a voter-verified paper trail. Once the voter is finished, the paper record slides out of view and into a lockbox.

 

Are there any voter-verified paper trail printers already approved by elections officials for use in Florida?

No. State elections officials will have to certify the printers and lockboxes for the voter-verified paper trail.

 

How many companies are certified to sell optical scan equipment in Florida?

Two of the three companies certified in Florida, Diebold and ES&S, have approved optical scan systems that they could sell to the 15 counties that use touch screen machines. The third, Sequoia Voting Systems, whose touch screen machines are used in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, does not have an approved optical scan system.

 

What about early voting?

Crist's proposal would give county supervisors of elections the option of using both optical scan systems and the retrofitted touch screen machines for early voting.

 

Will it take longer to vote on the optical scan machines? Will it take longer to count the votes?

Elections officials don't anticipate any changes to the amount of time it takes to vote or to count votes. However, it would take longer to do a manual recount with the optical scan machines than with the touch screen machines.

[Last modified February 2, 2007, 05:26:27]


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