Archive for Wednesday, February 8, 2006

County paves way for electronic voting

Clerk vows to educate voters on machines’ use before Aug. 1 primary

February 8, 2006

New electronic voting machines in Leavenworth County should get their first official workout in this summer's August primary elections involving federal, state and county offices.

Leavenworth County Clerk Linda Scheer said the machines, which the county is purchasing from Electronic Systems & Software of Omaha, Neb., were expected to be delivered in late April or early May.

The first scheduled election after that is the Aug. 1 primary.

Once the machines arrive, Scheer will begin educating voters on use of the new high-tech machinery.

"We plan on doing a lot -- a lot -- of voter outreach," Scheer said. "If we get a machine before then to do voter outreach, we're going to be out there."

Scheer's comments came Thursday, after the Leavenworth County Commission voted 2-0 to authorize her to seek bids from local financial institutions for temporary bonds not to exceed $250,000 to complete the purchase of 160 iVotronic voting machines and affiliated equipment.

Commissioners Clyde Graeber and Don Navinsky voted in favor of the measure; Chairman Dean Oroke was returning from Washington, D.C., and absent from the meeting.

The new machines will help the county comply with the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002. The law requires, in part, that all polling places provide access to secret voting for voters with disabilities so that assistance is not required for them to cast ballots.

The new machines will cost $516,126. The state, with the help of a federal grant, will pick up $289,650 of the cost. County taxpayers will pay for the remaining $226,476 for the machines and will kick in extra money for carts to move the machines from storage to precincts across the county for each Election Day. The cost of the carts is estimated at $23,000.

Commissioners first approved purchase of 89 machines in December, then in January gave Scheer approval to increase the total to 160 machines.

Scheer also addressed concerns brought up at past meetings about the machines.

She said each machine would be equipped with three "independent but redundant" memory chips to ensure that all votes cast would be counted. Each machine has a six-hour, rechargeable battery backup in case of power failure. In instances in which a recount is sought, she said, each machine has the ability to produce a report that replicates the entire voting process while still protecting voter confidentiality.

The machines, she said, would not be hooked into an online computer network, so there is no chance of online tampering with votes. Election officials will collect disks from the machines and deliver them to the courthouse for vote tabulation.

Scheer said once Electronic Systems & Software shipped the machines, paper ballots would be mostly, but not completely, a thing of the past in Leavenworth County. Voters casting advance ballots by mail will be issued a paper ballot, Deputy County Clerk Janet Klasinski said. And Scheer noted that provisional ballots would continue to be printed on paper and delivered to each of the county's 37 precincts.

"Each precinct will still have probably 25, 30 paper ballots, provisional ballots," Scheer said, "because the machines aren't made right now to do provisional ballots the way the state of Kansas requires."

When questions arise at the polls about a voter's qualifications, he or she is allowed to cast a provisional ballot. Each ballot is studied later for a decision on its validity.

The Help America Vote Act of 2002 was an initiative adopted by Congress and signed into law aimed at preventing a repeat of the disputed ballots that arose in the 2000 presidential election.

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