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Warren assured e-voting is secure
By MATTHEW E. MILLIKEN, Daily Dispatch Writer

WARRENTON - A representative of the company that manufactured Warren County's electronic voting machines assured the Board of Elections on Thursday evening that its equipment is reliable and nearly tamper-proof.

The equipment also is relatively simple to adapt for use by the visually impaired or people who have other disabilities, and it streamlines the process of generating ballots, MicroVote General project manager Marvin McFadyen said.

"It's almost virtually impossible to lose the votes on that machine," McFadyen said of the MicroVote Infinity voting panel, which the county first used in 2002.

The panels feature electronic monitors. Votes are cast by pushing buttons. Each panel has four redundant internal memories that retain data even if the machine is unplugged and its batteries die or are removed, McFadyen said.

The MicroVote technology is reliable, he said, and has been on the market for nearly two decades. The second-generation Infinity panels, which Warren owns, were first produced in 1998.

Only someone with intimate knowledge of the way the MicroVote Infinity is programmed and manufactured could taint the voting tally, McFadyen said.

"This board or this department does not have the ability to tamper with those machines," he said.

He described MicroVote Infinity security as impenetrable because the machines are not connected to a network.

The panels do not provide paper receipts to voters, although they could do so if required by legislation. Elections officials can print audit trails and vote tallies with the machines.

"But you still have to trust what's going on electronically, and that's the point," McFadyen said to a small group of citizens after the Board of Elections began a closed session.

McFadyen told the board it needs to take only one step to become compliant with the federal elections standards that go into effect in 2006: purchasing double-talk units for all the precincts. Double-talk units translate text into speech for the blind.

The Infinity panels have all the programming required for use by the visually impaired; all the county lacks is the double-talk hardware, which costs up to $350 per unit.

After the meeting, county Elections Director Christine Williams described McFadyen's presentation as "very settling."

The discussion "built my confidence in the company. He knew exactly what he was talking about," Williams said.

McFadyen will speak at a public forum, probably in mid-June, to reassure voters about the MicroVote system.

The county's current contract with MicroVote will cover poll-worker training, electronic ballot programming and Election Day assistance for July's primary. The board authorized Williams to negotiate a contract to cover November's general election.

The board authorized Williams to pursue the purchase or lease of an automated filing system for the county's voter-registration cards. The board also wants to purchase two computers for Williams and her assistant that will be capable of accessing the geographic maps and information that the office recently began using.

The construction of a county database that will assign voters to precincts and polling sites is continuing, Williams reported.

The database has been purged of anomalous streets, including streets with misspelled names. More streets must be added, along with street-number ranges and precinct assignments.

Williams said the database will definitely be finished by June 30.

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