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Porter County election officials should vote for paper ballots

Opinion    Northwest Indiana Times   28 April 2005

The issue: Elections
Our opinion: As Porter County replaces its voting machines, it should make sure that there is a paper record in case it is needed for a recount.

Porter County election officials are trying to decide what new technology to adopt before next year's primaries.

This story ran on nwitimes.com on Thursday, April 28, 2005 12:36 AM CDT

They have until July 1 to a new type of voting machine. After that, the state would make the decision on the county's behalf.

The current system of punch card ballots could lead to the same problems we learned about after the 2000 presidential election recount in Florida hanging chads, dimpled chads, pregnant chads and other problems resulting from a stylus that didn't punch a clean hole through the card.

So now punch card ballots are on their way out in the name of election reform.

They also are being rejected in the name of making it easier for disabled people to vote.

That's the rationale behind the Help America Vote Act, which made the punch-card ballots obsolete and ensures that polling places will meet federal Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines for accessibility.

So last week, the Porter County Board of Elections looked at seven different voting machines.

The fans of high-tech devices would naturally gravitate toward the touch-screen voting machines, in which the voter touches the box next to the candidate's name.

It's an expensive option, costing about $3,000 apiece. Each precinct would need four to six machines.

The county has a budget of $8,000 in federal and state money for each of the county's 125 precincts and $50,000 for software. Anything above that, and the county's taxpayers have to make up the difference.

The other problem with this type of device, however, is that if it fails, there aren't many backup systems.

The option County Clerk Dale Brewer prefers seems best.

Voters would each be given a sheet of paper to fill out, much like an SAT test. When the voter is done, the ballot would be fed into a $5,200 paper ballot counter, which looks much like a printer.

The machine would quickly count the votes. If there are too many or too few votes cast in any of the races, the ballot would be kicked back out. Poll workers would be able to override the machine in the event that a voter didn't want to cast a vote in any particular race.

The machines keep a running tally electronically and on tickertape. Those, plus the paper ballots themselves, provide multiple backup systems and make recounts easier. Each precinct would need just one of these machines.

Porter County should choose the paper ballot counter. It seems to be the clear choice in this election.

Your opinion, please

Should Porter County use touch-screen voting terminals or paper ballots in future elections?

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