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Ballots, machines could change by 2010 election

May 06, 2009 | 08:40 AM

The Harrison County Board of Commissioners heard a request and presentation Monday morning for new voting equipment from Circuit Court Clerk Sherry Brown and Governmental Business Systems account manager Kyle D. Conrad.

New voting machines became an issue after Election Systems & Software, the company which provided upkeep for the county's 40 Optech Eagle machines, said technical support will no longer be available for the machines. However, Brown said the company just recently informed the county it will support the machines for one more year although parts are not readily available for the nearly obsolete voting devices.

Kyle Conrad, of Governmental Business Systems, explains how to use the touch screen voting machine to Commissioner James Goldman and Circuit Court Clerk Sherry Brown. Photo by Ross Schulz (click for larger version)
Conrad presented two payment options for the equipment.

Both options include 40 vote tabulators with ballot boxes and 30 touch screen units. Purchasing the equipment outright would cost $379,225, while leasing the machines would cost $58,500 for each election cycle.

As of now, Conrad said, a paper trail with the touch screen machines is "not even an option."

"The state is not interested; it's not up for debate," he said.

Voters using a touch screen machine would receive an access card the size of a credit card to initiate the voting process. Another card, secured in the machine and only available to poll workers, records all of the votes. If the card is somehow damaged or the information is erased, the touch screen unit also stores the votes.

The optical scan ballots differ from the ones previously used in the county. Instead of connecting an arrow for the chosen candidates, the voter fills in an oval next to the name.

Conrad said the only color markings the machine will have trouble with is red.

Conrad strongly recommended the leasing option, since regulations for machine requirements can change in a short period of time through legislation. He said there's always a lobbying effort to add features so more people are able to vote. An example he gave was a sip and puff on a straw option debated at the federal level, for those unable to use their hands.

"Because of all that, I would strongly discourage purchasing a voting system," he said.

He said if the equipment is leased, GBS will store it and provide maintenance.

"In a county low on space, that means quite a bit," Conrad said.

Commissioner Terry Miller asked why they shouldn't keep the current machines for next year's elections and then purchase new equipment.

"For the service," Conrad said.

Brown also said ES&S is putting all of its energy into a new system, so support for the county's machines will be minimal.

Without an election scheduled for this year, the board doesn't have to make an immediate decision. Conrad said the machines can be provided if a decision is made at the first of 2010.

In other matters Monday morning, the board passed to the county council requests of $260,275 for Ramsey Water Co. and $240,000 for South Harrison Water Corp. (out of riverboat gaming contingency fund). Both additional requests are for back-up power plans after two storms in just more than five months knocked out power for a significant amount of time for many Harrison County residents.

The board also signed letters to Indiana Ninth District Congressman Baron Hill and U.S. Sens. Evan Bayh and Richard Lugar in request of support for federal funding for construction of local roadways to serve the Corydon I-64 interchange. The proposed site of the interchange is 2.3 miles west of Exit 105.

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    Conrad seems to be misinforming the Board
    May 07, 2009 | 03:19 AM

    When he claims that "a paper trail with the touch screen machines is "not even an option." and that "sip puff" features are not available now, Conrad is misinforming the Commissioners.

    Most jurisdictions in the US have been wise enough to purchase paper ballot optical scan systems and for voters with disabilites, purchase not unverifiable, invisible electronic touchscreens, but "AutoMark" ballot marking devices that offer sip puff and allow voters with disabilities to vote independently and privately in the same manner (paper ballots) as able-bodied voters.

    Kathy Dopp, National Election Data Archive
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