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Elections board picks optical scan vendor

By Matt Suman  Seneca Advertiser-Tribune  09 February 2005

The Seneca County Board of Elections voted unanimously to go with Election Systems & Software (ES&S) precinct-count optical scan voting machines.
Marge Brickner, Seneca County Board of Elections member, said ES&S, headquartered in Omaha, Neb., was the better choice because Diebold machines had touch-screen voting machines for handicapped voters and optical scan count machines for others.

"I like the idea of doing everything the same way," she said.

Earlier Tuesday, elections boards received an opinion from Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro that said Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell had no legal authority to force county elections boards to make a decision by Wednesday. Blackwell had directed county elections boards to decide between two qualified vendors - Diebold or ES&S.

Blackwell has said he wants precinct-count optical scan machines to be ready for the Nov. 8 general election.

Seneca County Prosecutor Ken Egbert Jr. said the board had a choice to hold off on the decision if they want to.

He said, "That doesn't mean you can indefinitely put that off."

Under the federal Help America Vote Act, states must get rid of punch card voting by Jan. 1, 2006 to receive funding under the act. Ken Egbert Sr., Seneca County board of elections member, said the board should make a decision and tell Blackwell's office what the board wants.

Seneca County will need 54 optical scan counters - one for each precinct - as well as 46 handicapped voting machines. Dan Shebesta, regional manager of account services for ES&S, said data will be stored on a memory device inside the counters.

The Seneca County commissioners still have to find space to store the new equipment.

Brickner said the board can use old punch card voting booths as a table for voters to fill out the ballots. She said people can mark their ballot anywhere at the precinct if they choose not to use booths.

Shebesta said the counting machines have a battery back-up in case of a power failure. He advised the board to change batteries every six months.

Blackwell's office said they will handle contracts and funding the new equipment rather than each local board. Representatives from Blackwell's office recorded the county elections board choices throughout Ohio Tuesday.

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