County considers touch-screen voting | RecordCourier.com

County considers touch-screen voting

by Jeff Munson, Staff Writer

Even though the November election has been out of the public conscience, Douglas County is among hundreds of local governments considering electronic, touch-screen voting booths.

County Recorder Barbara Reed attended a conference in Florida early this week to examine the issue and how to implement into future local elections.

She will present her findings and demonstrate a voting machine Thursday before Douglas County commissioners.

With most counties facing tight budgets, the cost electronic voting machines are not cheap.

Reed estimates it would cost the county around $900,000 to get Douglas County fully integrated with a touch-screen system.

“We’ve been planning for the future and how to get our system tied in electronically,” Reed said. “But what happened in November kind of put the pressure on us to do it quicker than expected.”

Douglas County has used a punch-card system for about 30 years and, for the most part, has not had problems with it.

The punch-card system, where voters punch holes in chads, came under scrutiny during the November election when President George W. Bush narrowly defeated Vice President Al Gore.

Since, many on both sides of the aisle have conceded the punch-card system is old and should be replaced with electronic voting devices.

Florida has already decertified the punch-card ballot system and replaced it with touch-screen voting booths. Others states are predicated to follow suit.

Reed had been looking to improve the county’s ballot system long before the November election. While some counties, such as Washoe, have chosen an Optiscan system where voters “fill in the bubble” of their voting choice, the system is not without flaws.

“There’s been problems with voters not filling it in correctly and the ballot is rejected,” she said.

An electronic touch-screen system alleviates the confusion, she said. The ballot screen has the capacity to help the visually impaired see the ballot correctly when making a decision.

Douglas County has about $175,000 set aside from past elections that it could convert if it chooses a touch-screen voting system.

Reed said there are alternative means of funding and that if the county should decide to buy the ballot machines, it could do it over time.

“We would likely want to do it in phases where we would purchase some machines and software and merge them into the voting system,” Reed said.

Details:

What: Douglas County Commission

When: Thursday, Oct. 4

Where: Courtroom of the Douglas County Administrative Building, 1616 Eighth Street, Minden

n Staff writer Jeff Munson can be reached at munson@swiftnews.com