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ADA voting machines on order

New voting machines designed especially for handicapped voters are expected to arrive in time for the May 2, 2006, Spring Primary.
The cost, $161,875, will be advanced from riverboat revenue, and the money will be reimbursed by the state, said Harrison Circuit Clerk Sherry Brown.
The Harrison County Council recently approved the expenditure, but the decision at the Oct. 11 meeting wasn’t unanimous. Councilman Alvin Brown’s motion to approve the money, seconded by Ralph Sherman, passed 4-2, with Carl (Buck) Mathes and Chris Timberlake casting the opposing votes. Also voting in favor were Kenneth Saulman and Rhonda Rhoads.
Concern stems from the fact that the voters will use a touch-screen, as opposed to marking a printed ballot, which won’t be available should vote totals be challenged and a recount necessary. ‘There wouldn’t be a paper trail,’ said Mathes.
Also, if one of the machines breaks down on election day, there would be no readily accessible way to include those votes. And breakdowns are not uncommon with computerized equipment, Timberlake said.
The clerk said if a recount were necessary, the ADA machine will print out a receipt of the vote tally. ‘It won’t be in electronic form,’ she said. ‘It will have paper, but not individual ballots.’ She said she believes a company representative could access individual votes.
Other voting machines may be available that produce a paper trail, but those machines would not be compatible with the optic scanning machines which Harrison County already has, Brown said.
The ADA voting machine was selected by the three commissioners, Brown said. ‘I had three vendors go before the commissioners for them to decide; it was ultimately their decision.
‘It just made sense because none of the others would work with what we already have,’ said Brown, who is secretary of the Harrison County Election Board by virtue of her county office. Edith Davis, R-Corydon, and Edith Richards, D-New Salisbury, are the others on the board.
The new machine will comply with the requirements of ADA (Americans with Disability Act) but the machines can be used by any voter.
In fact, others are encouraged to use the voting machine because if only one disabled person at a polling place uses the equipment to vote, his or her choices would be known.
Brown said screens will have large print accessible by touch and headphones for a blind person to wear to get instructions on using the touch screen. Braille is also available. Poll workers will require special training to assist disabled voters.
Up to $184,330 has been set aside by the state to purchase a machine for each of Harrison County’s 35 precincts, but some of those have shared polling places, so the current funding covers only 27 machines. Brown said she may return to the council to obtain the rest of the funds because otherwise, the funds will not be used by the state for anything else. The extra machines could be stored until needed, she suggested. As before, anyone with a disability who cannot travel to the polls to vote can ask for an absentee ballot or for a ‘traveling’ voting board to come to their residence. An application must be filed, which can be obtained from the clerk’s office. Call 738-4289 for a form or more information.

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