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Voting machines

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 25, 2001


Three companies have applied to have their electronic voting machines certified for use in Florida as the state considers replacing punch card ballots and unifying its voting system. Their products are listed below, along with the optical scan system, which also is being considered as a replacement for punch cards.

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eSLATE

NAME: eSLATE

STYLE: "Rotary select" design.

OPERATION: Use the dial at bottom right to move the highlighted blue bar up and down the ballot. Rotate right to go down and left to go up. Press "Enter" button next to the dial to select the candidate you want. A box to the left of the name will fill in with red. If you change your mind, you have two options: De-select the candidate by again pressing "Enter," and move down the ballot, or move the bar to another candidate in the same race and press "Enter." Go back and forth through ballot pages using the triangular "Previous" and "Next" buttons. When you're done, press the red "Cast Ballot" button on the lower left. If you have not made a selection in one or more races, the machine will ask if that's what you want to do. If not, you may scroll back and complete the ballot. Otherwise, press "Cast Ballot" button again.

COST: $15,000 per precinct or $86.5-million for entire state of Florida - not including volume discount.

OTHER USERS: The eSLATE has been used recently on a limited basis in Arapahoe, Jefferson and Summit counties in Colorado and in Tarrant County, Texas.

FEATURES: Headphones with audio narration of the ballot for voters who are blind or can't read. Readily adaptable to other languages. Includes a write-in feature. Impossible to "overvote" or select more than one candidate in a race. Battery back-up for power failures. Generates a paper record for manual recounts.

MAKERS: Hart InterCivic of Austin, Texas.

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Patriot
NAME: Patriot

STYLE: Touch screen.

OPERATION: Press boxes to highlight the candidates you want. If you change your mind, press the box again and remove the highlight. Move forward and backward to other ballot pages by pressing boxes labeled "Previous Page" in the upper left corner and "Next Page" in the upper right corner. At the end of the ballot, a box will appear that contains the wording: "End all voting." Press that box to complete your ballot. The computer will flash a final message that says "Your ballot has been cast. Thank you for voting."

COST: $76-million for entire state of Florida, or $44.8-million to replace systems in 26 counties that currently have punch cards, lever machines or paper ballots.

OTHER USERS: Several smaller communities in Michigan, North Carolina, South Carolina and Pennsylvania.

FEATURES: Headphones with audio narration of the ballot for voters who are blind or can't read. Readily adaptable to other languages. Includes a write-in feature. Software for rotating candidates, so those with names later in the alphabet are not always at the bottom of the ballot. Impossible to "overvote" or select more than one candidate in a race. Battery back-up for power failures. Generates a paper record for manual recounts.

MAKERS: UniLect Corp. of Dublin, Calif.

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AVC Edge
NAME: AVC Edge

STYLE: Touch screen.

OPERATION: Make your choice by touching the circle to the right of the desired candidate's name. A green check mark will appear in the circle, and circles for the other candidates in that race will disappear. If you change your mind, touch the green check mark to de-select the candidate. You now have two options: Touch the circle next to another candidate in the same race or go to the next race. Go back and forth through the ballot pages by touching the "Next" and "Back" options in the lower corners of the screen. At any point along the way, you can touch the "Review" option to get a summary of your voting so far. When you are done, touch the yellow box that says, "Touch here to cast your ballot."

COST: $200-million to $250-million for entire state of Florida.

OTHER USERS: Riverside County and Monterey, both in California. Riverside, with 600,000 registered voters, is the largest jurisdiction with touch screen ballots. A push-button electronic voting system, is used in Baltimore, Colorado, Kansas, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

FEATURES: Headphones with audio narration of the ballot for voters who are blind or can't read. Readily adaptable to other languages. Impossible to "overvote" or select more than one candidate in a race. Battery back-up for power failures. Generates a paper record for manual recounts.

MAKERS: Sequoia Pacific Voting Equipment, Inc., of Jamestown, N.Y.

* * *

STYLE: Optical scan.

OPERATION: Use a pencil or pen to darken the oval, rectangle or square next to the candidate. In some systems, completed ballots are taken to a central location and fed into machines that count and sort the pencil marks. In other systems, counting machines are located in precincts, where errors are immediately detected, giving voters a chance to make corrections.

OTHER USERS: Already used in 41 Florida counties and in communities across the country. More than 40 percent of U.S. counties used optical scan systems in the 2000 election, more than any other single system.

COST: About $40-million to buy the system for the 26 Florida counties that now use punch cards, lever machines or paper ballots. For half the cost, the state could lease the equipment for the 2002 election as an interim measure.

MAKERS: The two companies currently certified to provide optical scan systems in Florida are Election Systems & Software Inc. of Omaha, Neb., and Global Election Systems Inc. of McKinney, Tex.

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