MAHONING COUNTY Voting system bids get scrutiny

The elections board wants to start using electronic-voting machines by the May primary.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Six companies submitted proposals, ranging in price from $2.03 million to $3.76 million, to provide electronic voting systems for Mahoning County.
The proposals were opened today by the county board of elections. The proposals will be reviewed with a decision as to which company will get the contract coming in the next two to three months, said Michael V. Sciortino, board director.
"It's going to take some analysis to see how the systems stack up side by side," said Mark E. Munroe, board chairman.
Proposals opened today were from:
* Unilect Corp. of Dublin, Calif., for $2,026,500.
* Fidlar Doubleday Inc. of Rock Island, Ill., for $2,520,500. Fidlar was the only company that failed to submit a required bid bond. The company said the delay was caused by problems resulting from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
UElection Systems and Software of Omaha, Neb., turned in two proposals: One for $3,105,427 and the other, which includes a larger computer screen, for $3,551,427. ES & amp;S provides the county's current paper-ballot voting equipment.
UGlobal Election Systems of McKinney, Texas, for $3,376,394.67.
UHart Intercivic Inc. of Austin, Tex., for $3,518,021.
USequoia Voting Systems of Denver, Colo., for $3,759,200.
Numbers: The elections board's request for proposals did not say how many voting machines were needed, listing only that there are 311 voting precincts and about 178,000 voters, Munroe said.
The goal is to have an electronic voting system in place for the May primary, Sciortino said, but that depends a lot on the ability of the county to come up with the funding.
Delay: The board was going to open the proposals last week, but it was delayed to give companies more time to prepare in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.
The county has used paper ballots for the past 17 years. An electronic voting system would allow citizens to use a computer screen and a touch pad.
An electronic-voting system is more flexible than paper ballots, has less of a chance for voter error and over-voting, and would be cost-effective over a long period of time because the county will no longer have to pay the cost of printing ballots, election officials say.

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