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Disabled voters get to catch up
Our position: Electronic voting is a good idea. Vote verification is the next step.
Editorial     Orlando Sentinel   April 10, 2005

T he disabled in Volusia County this year will be able to vote using machines equipped for their needs. It's about time.

The County Council last week approved more than 200 electronic voting machines to comply with upcoming federal requirements.

It's too bad, though, that the equipment doesn't allow voters to verify their ballot. This would provide an added measure of security and confidence, something that may be in short supply in Florida.

At least elections staff can print out a trail showing how people voted in case of a recount or other problems. And, fortunately, the manufacturer Diebold Inc. of Ohio may put out a companion printer allowing voters to doublecheck their on-screen ballots.

If so, Volusia along with other Florida counties with Diebold optical scan and electronic equipment should make a beeline to purchase the printer.

Touchscreens are the only voting machines certified in Florida to meet the federal government's disability requirements.

Counties must be in compliance by January 2006 or forfeit federal dollars to buy the machines. In Volusia that comes to nearly $700,000, or one machine per precinct, plus early voting and back-up equipment. In Central Florida, the total is more than $2.5 million. No county should leave that money on the table.

It's time the disabled were given the same consideration as other voters. Lost in the brouhaha of Florida's mangled 2000 election was the often poignant testimony of disabled voters during U.S. Commission on Civil Rights hearings into the election in Tallahassee.

They spoke of being unable to cast a ballot entirely on their own and the resulting loss of dignity and privacy the right to voting privacy that others take for granted in every election. The electronic machines correctly fix this hole in the voting system.

The Diebold machines come with special equipment for the hearing and visually impaired such as headphones and keypads.

All that's missing is the Diebold printer, reportedly in prototype, allowing voters to verify the choices on their ballot.

The proposed printer lets voters view a paper receipt of their vote ions under a glass or plastic screen. Voters cannot take the receipts with them, but the printer allows them to catch mistakes, which is a good idea.

Paper ballots allow voters to do just that. Why not give electronic voters the same chance?

More states are demanding that electronic machines leave a verifiable voting trail. Often, that involves paper. Florida should, too. A voting system that boosts voters' confidence is always the best choice.

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