The county could go to an all electronic voting system as early as May 2002.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Companies interested in providing Mahoning County with an electronic voting system have until Sept. 17 to submit their proposals to the board of elections.
The board will open the proposals at 8 a.m. Sept. 18 and plans to award the contract about a month later, said Michael V. Sciortino, elections director.
The board wants to have a company in place for the Nov. 6 general election and to use the electronic voting system for portions of the county during that election, Sciortino said. The board could use an all-electronic system for the county as early as May 2002, he said.
Used before: Expected to submit proposals are three companies that have worked with the board of elections in the past and had their electronic voting systems used at a handful of precincts during the May primary, Sciortino said.
Those companies are Election Systems & amp; Software, the Omaha, Neb., company that handles the county's paper-ballot election system; Unilect Corp. of Dublin, Calif.; and Sequoia Pacific of Exeter, Calif.
Also, Dell of Austin, Texas; and Avante International Technology of Princeton, N.J., have requested information from the board and could turn in proposals, Sciortino said.
The county has used paper ballots for the past 17 years. An electronic voting system, which is estimated to cost $4 million, would allow voters to cast ballots using a computer screen and a touch pad.
The board was moving toward an electronic voting system last year, but after being pleased with the paper-ballot system used in the November 2000 election, it backed away from the plan.
Technology knowledge: But election officials say they have learned a lot more about electronic voting technology since last year's election and more companies have received state certification since then, putting the county in a better position to choose a vendor for the equipment.
An electronic-voting system is more flexible than paper ballots, has less of a chance for voter error and over-voting, and will be cost-effective over the long haul because the county will no longer have to pay the cost of printing ballots, election officials say.