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Report vouches for accuracy, security of Broward voting machines

By Buddy Nevins
Political Writer

November 26, 2003

Broward County's touch-screen voting system is secure and there is no need to add printers to provide a paper record of the votes, a new report has found.

Pete Corwin, assistant to the county administrator, concluded after a two-month study of voting machine security that the county's 5,040 Election Systems & Software machines "can be relied upon to accurately record and tabulate results ...

"There has never been a case of election fraud due to tampering with system hardware or software," Corwin wrote.

The report was ordered by the County Commission after widespread nationwide concern over whether electronic voting machines are trustworthy. It found that even if the commission were concerned about the machines, which cost $17.2 million, they cannot be made more secure at this time, because no printing system has been approved by state elections division regulators.

Printers would provide a paper record of voting, but the report said a number of problems would have to be overcome before any printer could be approved. Using them could slow voting, the report warned.

Printers tend to jam, run out of ink and run out of paper, the report stated, and visually impaired voters cannot verify a paper ballot without assistance from poll workers.

Adding printers could also be costly, up to $6 million for Broward, according to an estimate by ES&S.

Once a printer is approved by the state, the report recommends waiting until other jurisdictions test it in elections before buying it.

The county staff also turned thumbs down on an early model electronic machine, the optical scanner. Voters use a paper ballot and pencil in bubbles next to the candidates they choose, similar to the way standardized tests work. The ballots are then counted by scanners.

The report stated that converting to optical scanners would cost at least $4.3 million and an additional $750,000 would have to be spent each election to print ballots.

"Voters tend to favor touch-screen systems and find them easy to use," Corwin wrote.

The county staff will continue to monitor improvements in voting security, the report said.

Buddy Nevins can be reached at bnevins@sun-sentinel.com or 954-356-4571.

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