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County nears decision on purchase of new voting machines
By Jami Maday - Daily Republican Register   27 April 2005


In the steps of obtaining a mandatory new voting system for 2006, County Clerk Marie Kolb informed the Wabash County Board of Commissioners Monday of what will need to be paid for the new voting devices after the county receives federal funding.

And that price tag will come to around $23,000.

The county will receive $51,072 from federal funding under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) to help purchase the new devices, which are optical scanning systems that will calculate votes electronically and keep the information on a chip and a calculator-tape printout.

Residents will cast their votes on a paper ballot and put the paper in the machine, Kolb explained, and the device will calculate the votes and discharge the ballot into a ballot box.

The machines, which will completely replace the old voting system, will also let voters know if they have over-voted, Kolb said.

After the polls close, election judges can then count the ballots and compare the information to the printout and what is on the chip.

 Kolb said she plans to order 10 machines - one per polling place with an extra machine housed in the County Clerk's Office. Commissioners acted to consolidate the polling places from 16 to nine in August before the 2004 November election in order to prepare for this new voting system.

"I've heard nothing but good things about it (new system)," Kolb told the Register.

The county will discuss payment options on the new system at a later date, said Kolb, but there is the matter of acquiring machines for the disadvantaged.

The machines, called Disadvantaged Recording Electronically (DRE) devices, will be similar to the new voting machine, but with a few additions. These include adjustments on the size of the text on the screen, adjustments in contrast on the screen, and the availability for voters to access an ear phone that will tell the instructions to the voter.

This portion of the new voting system, however, is still in the planning stages. Kolb said she is unsure how many machines the county will have to obtain and if funds will be available from the government. The DREs, Kolb said, cost almost $5,000 each.

"I'm hoping we won't owe anything on the DREs, but I can't promise you that," she told commissioners.

Both systems must be obtained by March 2006, said Kolb.

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