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Butler Co. s e-voting machines
Goal: Use touch screens this year

By Janice Morse
Cincinnati Enquirer   27 April 2005

HAMILTON - Computer touch-screen voting is coming to Butler County - and elections officials say they think voters will find the high-tech machines user-friendly, fast and accurate.

The Butler County Board of Elections on Tuesday became Greater Cincinnati's first to choose the touch-screen method, also known as "e-voting" or electronic voting, the Ohio Secretary of State's Office said. Clermont County intends to continue using an upgraded optical-scan system, in which voters blacken ovals with pencils; Hamilton and Warren counties are still mulling their options.

The elections board voted unanimously to purchase 1,279 e-voting machines for the county's 240,000 registered voters. The Diebold Elections Systems machines cost $2,700 each.

They will be paid for with about $3.5 million in federal Help America Vote Act funds.

That act requires all states to replace problem-ridden punch-card voting systems by May 2006.

Butler County officials hope to have the system in place by the Nov. 8 election, and will have demonstration models in public places for voters to test within about two months, said Betty McGary, deputy director of the board. She said the e-voting machines cost about as much as optical-scan machines, but the e-voting machines have a lower per-ballot cost that will save the county millions of dollars over a 10-year period.

The e-voting machine prints a paper receipt listing the voter's ballot choices - and "corrects the voter, actually, as they move through their ballot," McGary said.

The machine will not allow "over-voting" - where people vote for more candidates than allowed in a single race. The machine also will alert voters when they have "under-voted," or failed to make a choice in a given race.

Bob Urosevich, a Diebold representative, told the board that studies have shown the machines speed up voting and improve accuracy. Urosevich also said tampering with the voting process would be difficult, if not impossible. "There is literally no way that you can hack into this system that we know of," he said.

During the last presidential election, Diebold had about 55,000 of the machines in use nationwide, said spokesman David Bear.

He said surveys showed more than 90 percent of users were very accepting of the machines and found them easy to use. They also provide advantages for people with disabilities, Bear said: "A person who is blind can take an audio ballot and maybe, for the first time in their life, vote completely unassisted."

People in wheelchairs can vote more easily, too, he said, using a keypad placed on their laps.

He said many people theorize that senior citizens will be reluctant to warm up to the new devices, "but actually, it's just the opposite," Bear said.

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