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Voting machines aren't illegal
Elections: Uncertified software was removed after problem discovered

By Don Fasnacht
Staff writer

Wayne County's new voting machines aren't illegal; they're just not certified yet.

But uncertified or not, they've been approved for use in the May primary elections.

"I wish people would use the term 'certified' instead of legal," Wayne County Clerk Sue Anne Lower said. "That way it doesn't sound so bad."

Lower and three other county clerks who have the new computerized voting systems made by Electronic Systems & Software appeared at the Indiana Election Commission meeting Wednesday to fight for new systems this spring.

Wayne, Johnson and Henry counties have already used the voting systems once.

Lower didn't learn there was any problem until she applied to the state for money promised to help pay for the new machines.

"When we submitted our grant request, they called and asked what program was installed," Lower said.

Wayne County, and the other counties, bought the voting machines with version 7.4.5 software installed. ES&S has applied to have version 7.4.5 certified, but the state certification process hasn't been completed yet.

"It takes a long time to get it through the process," Lower said.

ES&S's version 6.1.2 software has been certified. Wayne County had it installed in the new machines after the certification problem was discovered.

But it produces an image on the touch screens that is much smaller than the newer, uncertified software. The image is unacceptable.

"A person with arthritis or large hands would have a difficult time," Lower said. "And it's much harder to read.

"It's just not as user friendly," Lower said.

All four county clerks agreed, so they sat through eight hours of meetings Wednesday to make their point. The meetings went on until 9 p.m.

The state election commissioners were unhappy, not with the clerks, but with the situation and with ES&S. If the company isn't able to provide an acceptable, certified software by Oct. 1 for the fall elections, then ES&S must provide alternative certified machines from a competitor. And ES&S has to pay the bill for the use of those machines.

None of this changing of back and forth of software has cost Wayne County anything. "It's built into the service agreement," Lower said.

Actually, Wayne County hasn't paid ES&S anything yet.

"It's written into our contract that we don't pay until we get the promised state funds," Lower said.

Counties have been replacing punch-card voting systems under a mandate from the federal government after problems counting the Florida election in 2000.

The $1.6 million Wayne County is spending will come from local, federal and state funds, but so far no money has trickled down from above.

As for last fall's Richmond city election the first using the touch-screen voting system it's official.

"It (the software) didn't affect the outcome of the election," Lower said.

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