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MAHONING COUNTY Board pushes to buy new voting system



Published: Tue, February 5, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Commissioners want the system to pay for itself through cost savings.

By BOB JACKSON

VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- The Mahoning County Board of Elections' request for money to buy a new computerized voting system seems closer to approval.

Executive Director Michael V. Sciortino said the panel expects to have enough computerized, touch-screen machines in place to cover Youngstown, Struthers, Campbell and possibly Poland in the May general election. That will involve about 350 to 400 machines, he said.

It will take about 850 touch-screen machines to cover all voting precincts in the county, which Sciortino and board President Mark Munroe said they expect to have in place in time for the November general election.

Funding approval: But all that hinges on funding approval from commissioners and Auditor George Tablack, Sciortino said.

"We know we are at a crossroads because we have probably gone as far as we can with our current system," said county Administrator Gary Kubic. "We have to do something, but the numbers have to fit."

He said elections board staff are preparing a spread sheet to indicate anticipated cost savings the touch-screen system would create by requiring less part-time staff, eliminating the need to buy paper ballots and other measures.

Those savings would be applied toward paying off the debt the county would incur by financing the $3 million system, Kubic said.

Sciortino said the county would probably pay off the debt over seven years.

Kubic said commissioners have not acted on funding the system, though he has notified them in a memo that he's "cautiously optimistic" that it can be done. County officials are still negotiating a purchase contract with Election System Software. "We have narrowed the contract to our liking," Kubic said.

Present system: The county's current voting system, which uses paper ballots and pencils, has been on loan from an election technology company. To continue using it, the county would have to buy electronic scanners to read the ballots.

A touch-screen system would provide more efficient and accurate vote-counting and reduce the time needed to count the ballots, he said.

bjackson@vindy.com




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