01/06/06 — Voters can try proposed voting machines

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Voters can try proposed voting machines

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on January 6, 2006 1:54 PM

The Wayne County Board of Elections will have a public forum Tuesday from 10 a.m. until noon to allow county residents to see the new voting equipment expected to be in place by the May elections.

Election Systems & Software of Omaha, Neb., will have prototypes of the new tabulating equipment ready for display and company officials will be on hand to demonstrate the machines and answer questions, Wayne Board of Elections Director Gary Sims said.

The open house will be at the county Elections Board offices on William Street.

State officials ordered all counties in the state to convert their vote-counting systems to optical scan machines, electronic recording machines or paper ballots. The order came in the wake of miscounted ballots in several county elections, most notably Carteret.

Ninety of the state's 100 counties are affected by the order. The other 10 already have machinery in place that state officials have found acceptable.

When all but one of the voting machine companies withdrew from consideration, the choice became easier, if more expensive. County officials say they expect the new system to cost about $500,000. Most of the money will come from state and federal grants.

The county Board of Elections has recommended the purchase of the AutoMARK system made by Elections Systems & Software. If the county Board of Commissioners approves the purchase, the county would need one machine for each of the county's 30 precincts, another for its one-stop voting site, one to handle transfer votes and two to be kept ready as backups.

The AutoMARK machine is able to help the visually impaired and handicapped to cast ballots more easily, Sims said.

He urged groups representing the disabled to attend the forum to learn about how the machines work.

"We would love for anybody representing the blind, handicapped or elderly the opportunity to observe the equipment and get exposure. There are questions I wouldn't be able to ask that they could," Sims said.

Questions about the forum or the machines should be directed to the county Board of Elections office at 731-1411.