County chooses new voting system
The Star Press, 07 June 2005. By RICK YENCER
MUNCIE - Despite objections from disabled voters, Delaware County Commissioners, by a 2-1 vote, decided Monday on a new electronic voting system that complies with federal law and will be first used in 2006.
The commissioners went with the lowest quote of $729,800 from MicroVote General Corp., Indianapolis, to supply 225 direct record electronic machines. MircoVote provides election systems to 46 other counties. Other quotes ranged from $833,890 to $1.1 million for electronic and optic scan systems. Most of the cost will be reimbursed by the federal government.
Delaware County, like Randolph and Madison counties, is among the last 14 counties that have not complied with the Help America Vote Act of 2002 which ends punch card voting in 2006.
Republican commissioners Larry Crouch and Tom Bennington went with MircoVote's offer that was recommended by County Clerk Karen Wenger. Democratic Commissioner John Brooke, a former election official, voted no after the commissioners listened to concerns from disabled residents that the DRE (direct record electronic) system might not be as accessible as others. More than 48,000 people voted in the 2004 general election in Delaware County.
"I don't know that I will be able to vote," said Tona Snoeberger, who said the push-button MircoVote system read candidate choices too quickly for people who suffer from cerebral palsy and other disabilities.
Jody Courtney, who uses a wheelchair, said the MicroVote system was the least accessible, adding that concerns from the disabled community should be addressed.
Snoeberger and other disabled advocates asked the commissioners to reconsider their choice, although Bennington said the MicroVote system met all requirements and was certified by the state.
"We have been through this, and I am not going to argue about it," Bennington said.
Crouch added that MicroVote was an Indiana company that provided training and technical support for its system.
Brooke said the choice "was a poor ion," given the company rated fourth in a vendor fair last February and that MircoVote was invited to submit a quote after the county saw demonstrations from other companies.
Wenger and other Delaware County Election Board members did not attended Monday's meeting. Election Board President Bill Bruns said he was not familiar with which system the commissioners chose. Wenger did not return telephone calls.
Afterward, Carson Bennett, a retired Ball State University professor, said he was in favor of saving tax dollars, but thought the decision was wrong.
"One issue is how you treat the young, the old and the disabled," said Bennett. "We owe it to these people to give them all we can."
During separate interviews, Delaware County's political party chairmen also disagreed over the electronic voting system.
"This is a system that has a proven record and is used in several counties in the state," said Kaye Whitehead, Republican Party county chairman.
Dennis Tyler, Democratic Party county chairman, pointed out there was no "paper trail" with direct record electronic voting like a punch card stub voters now receive when they cast a ballot.
Jay County bought a similar system last year and used it in the 2004 general election.
"We had no problems with it," said Jay County Clerk Jane Ann Runyon.
That county used a touch screen version to make ballot ions instead of pushing buttons on the electronic machine. And Runyon said MicroVote had excellent training and technical support service.
The clerk's office spent several months going to local groups and displaying the machines to help voters understand their use.
Steve Shamo, a MicroVote sales representative, explained the electronic voting system was accessible to the disabled and gaps could be set between button clicks to accommodate people with physical disabilities.
One machine at every polling place also must be accessible to people with disabilities and the system has other adaptations for hearing- and visually impaired voters.
Shamo also explained there was no electronic system that could produce a receipt or stub from the machine. Voters will get a receipt when they vote, but it will not be attached to the ballot like a punch card.
Regarding the voter fair, Shamo said local officials ran out of survey forms which was among the reasons the low response for their system. That also was a reason MicroVote was not initially invited to submit a quote.
Contact news reporter Rick Yencer at 213-5833
Electronic voting is old school to several counties in East Central Indiana including Blackford, Henry and Wayne counties.
The Help American Vote Act was passed by Congress in 2002 after the punch card fiasco in the 2000 presidential election. The law required local counties to use electronic voting systems.
The two certified by the Indiana Election Division are optic scan and direct record electronic systems.
An optic scan is like an SAT test card where a voter fills in circles on a paper ballot and s it into a computer scanner which tallies the vote. There is a paper trail from that ballot.
A direct record electronic system uses either a touch screen or push button to record the votes. There is no paper trail.