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Blackwell asks for release of federal money.
Associated Press. 06 June, 2005

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Counties eager to get going with new voting-machine systems should be able to begin their work soon.

Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell's office was to ask the state Controlling Board on Monday to release $115 million in federal money for counties to purchase the new systems mandated by federal law.

The Help America Vote Act authorizes the payments to replace punch-card ballots that came under scrutiny in the presidential election fiasco in Florida in 2000.

Fifty-six counties have chosen a system. Three are available: electronic touch-screen machines made by Diebold Election Systems and optical scan systems made by Diebold and Election Systems & Software. Optical scan machines read pencil marks made by voters to signify their choices.

ES&S and 32 counties have sued Blackwell and had their deadlines for choosing a vendor extended to Sept. 15. ES&S says its touch-screen machines will have federal and state certification by the end of August at the latest. Both Blackwell and ES&S hope to settle their differences by Aug. 15, when a hearing in the case is scheduled.

Blackwell also is asking the Controlling Board, made up of six legislators and a president who represents Gov. Bob Taft, to restructure its contract with Diebold for touch-screen machines to reflect a lower price Blackwell's office negotiated. Instead of $2,964 per machine, Diebold will offer them at $2,700.

Blackwell has said all 88 counties must have new systems in place by Jan. 1.

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