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  Recounts decide school contests

By CLAIRE BUSHEY, News-Sun Staff Writer

Clark County Board of Elections followed the paper trail Monday afternoon, counting ballots by hand to determine results in two school board elections.

There may not be a paper trail in the future, as the board voted 3-1 to acquire electronic voting machines by the March 2004 primary election.

Recounts were required in contests for a seat on Southeastern Local Board of Education and a seat on the Greenon Local Board of Education. The difference in votes for opposing candidates in both races was within one-half of 1 percent, which is grounds for an automatic recount.

Four women counted 3 percent of the votes by hand, and a computer tallied the remaining results.

The election of John Kitchen to the Southeastern board was confirmed by the recount. He won by one vote over Phyllis Frysinger, 532 to 531. Kitchen received 15.9 percent of the vote, while Frysinger received 15.87 percent.

Pam Lourens was elected to Greenon school board over Nelson Henning by a margin of .07 percent. Lourens received 1,501 votes, or 26.94 percent of the vote, and Henning got 1,497 votes, or 26.87 percent. The initial vote count had produced a tie between the candidates.

The board of elections certified the final results for those two races and the rest of the elections held Nov. 4.

Board members discussed whether to purchase electronic voting machines for the 2004 primary or wait until the general election in November. Estimates place the cost of new machines, poll worker training, voter education and revamping office space at $2 million.

The federal government will provide the money, but some members of the board worried the money could run out for counties that wait until November.

"Those who take money now will receive the money," said board member Daniel Harkins. "Those who wait do so at their peril."

Board Chairman David Farrell, who voted against implementing the new technology in March, said he was concerned about whether staff would be "put in a corner" if they had to roll out the new technology that soon.

Board members ultimately decided to buy machines from Sequoia Voting Systems. Companies contending for the contract also included Diebold Election Systems, Election Systems & Software and Hart InterCivic.

Harkins said by telephone after the meeting the Sequoia system was chosen because its staff members had been highly responsive and its security system was judged superior to the others.

Harkins generally is skeptical of the switch to electronic voting. "It's a knee-jerk reaction by Congress to the Florida situation," he said, referring to the recounts in several Florida counties after the 2000 presidential election. "I think it's a mistake."

Harkins, the county's Republican Party chairman, said he is concerned about the lack of a paper trail, with no way in the computerized system of conducting a hand recount.

Farrell, Democratic chairman, offered similar sentiments in a telephone conversation after the meeting.

"We've been mandated, and we must comply," he said. The Sequoia system was the best offered, he said.

Farrell said he had pressed for a system that included the ability to print a paper receipt for each voter, to verify that the voter had indeed been recorded by the machine. He intends to propose as a policy that the machines provide paper receipts.

"I don't know that it's critical," but it could give some voters a measure of reassurance, he said. The Sequoia system does that.

He said he received assurances from Elections Director Linda Rosicka that existing voting machines and punch cards be retained until all doubts about the new system have been removed — even until after the next election.

"I'm real nervous about it," Farrell said.

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