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Elections officials to purchase new voting machines

By the Associated Press

BATON ROUGE State elections officials are preparing to spend $46 million to buy new voting machines for 50 of the state's 64 parishes, with the search for new machines to begin next month.

First Assistant Secretary of State Al Ater said Louisiana will replace 4,000 to 5,000 voting machines statewide while keeping in mind the problems other states are experiencing with new electronic voting machines and the national furor over the potential for ballot tampering.

''We have always had a cautious approach to the touch-screen machines,'' Ater said Monday. ''There have been consistent problems around the nation with them.''

Ater said companies advise that the life expectancy of the touch-screen machines which Louisiana has had some problems with is seven to 10 years.
''There are many other machines that meet federal requirements with life expectancies considerably longer,'' he said.

The state has about $46 million from the federal government to make elections upgrades to federal standards. Fifty parishes use old-style lever machines that do not meet federal regulations.

Of the 14 parishes that meet the new standards, two parishes, Ascension and Tangipahoa, have touch-screen voting machines, and elections officials in both parishes reported glitches with the machinery.

Ater said elections officials will start inviting companies to preview their machines around the state between August and November. Local elections officials and the public will be invited to the events.

Ater said elections officials hope to have a contract awarded by January.

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