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Medina County picks e-voting

Elections board won't buy optical-scan machines, returns to first choice: touch screens from Diebold

By Julie Wallace

Beacon Journal staff writer


MEDINA - Come November, voters in Medina County will cast their ballots in the most up-to-date way.

On Thursday, the Board of Elections rescinded its earlier decision one forced by Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell's office to go with optical-scan machines, deciding instead in favor of touch-screen voting.

The decision brings the voting controversy full circle in Medina County.

The board had wanted touch-screen machines all along, and chose them following directives handed down last year by Blackwell's office. But the question of accountability was raised by state legislators because the touch screens weren't equipped to produce a paper trail that voters could verify. That resulted in additional scrutiny of the four machines that were certified, including a model made by Green-based Diebold Inc.

Those concerns prompted Blackwell to switch gears in January. That's when he ordered all 88 counties to spend their federal dollars buying optical-scan machines voting that can best be described as similar to thecomputer-graded bubble tests that students face in high school and college. Voting on those machines relies on marked paper ballots for verification purposes.

That edict wasn't taken well by many of the boards of election across the state some of which complained that the technology is outdated and the machines are bulky and not easily stored.

As it turns out, that edict didn't last, either.

Earlier this month, a blockbuster deal with Diebold one that significantly cut the costs of touch-screen machines equipped with snap-on printers saw Blackwell changing his mind again and giving county boards of elections the go-ahead for touch-screen voting.

That brought the Medina board back to the table Thursday to cast a 4-0 vote this time approving the purchase of 673 machines for its 88 polling locations. That will eat up nearly all the $1.7 million in federal money earmarked for the county.

``They're what we wanted all along,'' said Ray Laribee, a Republican board member.

That cost does include some optical-scan machines, to be used by those who cast absentee ballots. What the cost doesn't cover is a massive ballot printer, which can run as much as $10,000. The board debated a purchase Thursday but didn't decide to buy.

As of Thursday, five counties had notified Blackwell's office of their choice. Four chose the Diebold touch-screen machines, and one stayed with the optical-scan machine.

Boards have until May 24 to decide.

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