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Officials on board with touch-screen voting plan
By: SCOTT TYNES, DAILY LEADER Staff Writer July 27, 2005 
Lincoln County will receive touch-screen voting machines under a bulk purchase plan sponsored by the secretary of state's office prior to a January federal deadline, officials say.  
Counties have until January to meet requirements of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 regarding voting machines and precinct houses. The law was enacted to eliminate some of the election difficulties that plagued Florida during the 2000 election.  
Work has already begun on the precinct houses to meet those requirements, such as adding handicap-accessible entrances and restroom facilities.

The supervisors' decision to opt into Secretary of State Eric Clark's plan should bring the county into compliance with the federal law on voting machines.

Clark made an agreement with Diebold Election Systems Inc. in June for a mass purchase of electronic touch-screen machines that can be used by people in wheelchairs and are equipped with audio instructions and headphones for blind people to vote without assistance.

The federal government is paying 95 percent and the state is paying 5 percent of the $15 million tab for counties statewide to buy the new machines and provide training and support.

Supervisors had the option of either joining Clark's plan or purchasing their own machines, which would still qualify for the 95 percent federal money.

Chancery Clerk Tillmon Bishop said he joined the five county supervisors in attending a seminar sponsored by Clark's office detailing his plan.

"I think those who went felt much better about touch-screen voting then before they went," Bishop said.

The county will receive 68 machines for its 32 voting precincts under the plan, Bishop said. The number of machines received by each county was determined by a formula based on the county's population at a rate of one new machine for every 191 registered voters.

"We'll need more than 68 machines," said District Four Supervisor Doug Moak. "Given the number of precincts we have, I think we'll need to purchase a few more and some backups."

Clark's office will only purchase the 68 machines calculated by its formula, Moak said, so the county will have to purchase any additional machines.

The county will, however, receive the same discounted rate Diebold agreed to in Clark's agreement, he said. Under that agreement, each additional machine will cost the county about $2,900.

Moak could not say how many extra machines he felt the county would need.

"We've still got to get together on this thing (with Circuit Clerk Terry Lynn Watkins) and decide exactly what we all want to do," Bishop said.

Watkins said she was unable to attend a circuit clerks' convention last week that included a presentation by a representative from the secretary of state's office and would, therefore, be uncomfortable talking about how the system itself would operate.

Watkins said she was attempting to get that information now.

Municipalities must also meet the Help America Vote Act requirements but many have traditionally used county machines during elections.

Moak said he did not expect that to change under the new system.

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