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No voting trouble locally
New area voting machines work well despite national controversy

Staff writer

Wayne County elections seem to have gone off without a hitch, but controversy still exists nationwide about the security of electronic voting machines.

Richmond's 2003 city elections were the first time that iVotronic voting machines were used in Wayne County, and Wayne County Clerk Sue Anne Lower is happy with how the machines functioned on Election Day.

"I was very satisfied with it," Lower said about the iVotronics' performance. "It exceeded my expectations."

Many voters like how easy the machines are to use.

"Most everyone that I've talked with have been pleased with it," Lower said. "I haven't heard anyone say they did not like it."

However, the success and popularity of new touch-screen voting machines is mixed across the country.

Proponents of the machines support them because of their ease of use and their versatility for voters with impaired mobility and vision.

Critics of touch-screen voting say that paperless voting leaves no definitive paper trail in the instance that a recount is requested. They claim the machines only print the computers' tallies and would like a way to verify the tallies.

Some political scientists claim electronic voting with no paper trail heightens the risk of election fraud and undetected error, and others say having a paper trail could increase the likelihood of voter fraud. Printing each ballot would also make electronic voting more expensive because of paper costs and printer repair.

Lower said that the iVotronics left no need for a recount since everything is already totaled electronically. Workers could have recounted the absentee paper ballots, but that was not necessary.

Lower also said a voter-verifiable paper trail in which voters could see a print-out of how they voted is not necessary and would defeat the purpose of having the electronic machines.

This is supposed to help us eliminate paper," Lower said. She does not anticipate using a paper trail at the polls in the future.

Some groups argue that the new electronic voting machines make it easy for hackers to tap into.

Wayne County Information Technology Director Rich Rankin liked Lower's decision to keep the election results off the Internet.

"It was only plugged in in our office," Rankin said.

Brian Odell, project manager from Election Systems and Softward, Inc. for Wayne County, said votes were protected from hackers by not connecting the iVotronics to the Internet.

Still others have concerns about software flaws or glitches.

This summer, a group of computer science researchers at Johns Hopkins University identified software flaws in Diebold Election Systems products. Located in Canton, Ohio, Diebold is one of the largest suppliers of electronic voting machines and software.

ES&S provided Wayne County's electronic voting machines, but problems like those at Diebold have not been identified in ES&S equipment yet.

"It seemed like what we had functioned flawlessly," Rankin said, but he added that he needed to do more research on the software issues. "I haven't seen any problems firsthand."

In the meantime, Lower's office plans to use the iVotronics in the next elections in the spring. She wants to give pollworkers more training on the machines, and plans to start in January.

Originally published Friday, November 28, 2003

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