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The new system would help improve security of the ballots while saving the county money, board



Published: Tue, November 27, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The new system would help improve security of the ballots while saving the county money, board members said.

By IAN HILL

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- The Mahoning County Board of Elections has decided to ask the county commissioners to pay for a new $2.9 million computerized voting system.

Voters who use the system would be able to cast their ballots by touching the name of their candidate or issue on a color computer screen. The screen is part of a voting unit that has the size and weight of a laptop computer.

County residents voted in the Nov. 6 general election by filling in the blank next to their candidate's name on a paper ballot. Voters are provided with a pencil.

The board voted at a meeting this morning to recommend that the commissioners buy the new system. Board Chairman Mark Monroe said he feels the new system will add security to the voting process, noting that the ballots used Nov. 6 could be changed with an eraser.

Savings: Board Director Michael Sciortino added that the new system could save the county at least $250,000 during the year of a presidential election. That's how much the county pays to print the paper ballots for that election.

Monroe noted that the paper ballot system is on loan from an election technology company. The county's old system had technical problems and was scrapped two years ago, he said, and the board of elections has waited to buy a new system while the commissioners work out the county's financial difficulties.

How it works: The new system is activated by a small, 1-inch thick box that would be given to poll workers in the county. The poll workers would walk with the voter to the voting booth, place the card in a slot in the computer unit, and leave.

The voter would then be presented with a choice of reading the ballot in English or Spanish. A unit on demonstration during this morning's meeting also allowed voters to read the ballot in Creole.

After a language is selected, the screen changes to a listing of some of candidates in the races on the ballot. The unit prevents voters from casting their ballot for more than the number of candidates that can win the race. However, the voters aren't required to cast a ballot in every race.

The voter can touch a spot on the screen to advance to other listings of candidates. He or she also can type in the name of write-in candidates.

After choosing candidates on the final listing, the voter pushes a flashing red button labeled "vote" and the ballot is cast.

Storage: Vote tallies are stored in each unit during election day. At the end of the day, poll workers record the vote totals on the activation boxes.

The boxes are then placed in a machine that tallies the votes.

If the commissioners decide to buy the system, the units would be phased in at precincts throughout the county over a period of time, Monroe said. The system was created by Elections System and Software of Omaha, Neb.




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