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State to unveil new touch-screen voting machines
By AP Wire Service
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Oklahomans will find new touch-screen voting machines when they go to vote next year.

Oklahoma is scheduled to receive $33 million in federal money to pay for the new technology and make improvements in the computer system and database for the state's optical scan machines, Election Board secretary Mike Clingman said. The federal funding is a response to the controversy in Florida surrounding the 2000 presidential election.

The new machines probably still will allow voters to use the same kind of ballot, Clingman said. Voters would the ballots in the machines, press buttons on the machines to mark ballots and then place them in optical scan counters.

The new machines are designed to allow blind voters or those with other disabilities to cast a secret ballot for the first time, Clingman said.

The machines cost between $3,500 and $5,000 each, Clingman said. New optical scan machines cost about $4,000. The state has no deadline to spend the money, he said. Oklahoma already has provided its matching share of about $2 million.

It's undetermined how many of the new machines will be in place by the 2006 congressional primaries in July, Clingman said. The state
is working with federal officials to determine whether all of the state's 2,400 precincts must have them.

Election commissioner Ray Martinez III said Oklahoma is ahead of many states because it has only one voting system used throughout the state, and it has one database of registered voters. Oklahoma has been using optical scan equipment since 1992.

"We're the largest state in the country that has a statewide election system, where everybody in the state votes the same way no matter where you were," Clingman said.

"This will be our 14th year to use it and it was designed for 10 years," Clingman said. "We're looking at having to switch that out because spare parts are getting really hard to find to keep the equipment in perfect running order. So probably by 2008, we will look at buying all new optical scan machines."

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