Tuesday, June 15, 2004


Lancaster Eagle-Gazette

(Newspaper Network of Central Ohio)


Blind group withdrawing voting machine lawsuit


By Devin Shultz, Contributing Writer


LANCASTER -- An advocacy group for the blind wants to drop its lawsuit against Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell and 30 Ohio counties, including Fairfield County.


The National Federation of the Blind of Ohio filed a motion Friday to dismiss the lawsuit, which was filed April 20.


The group dropped its complaint to allow for more training of elections workers and implementation of direct recording electronic machines throughout the state. The group went to court because the Ohio Controlling Board refused to approve Blackwell's request to use federal funds for the machines.


The Controlling Board's delays in releasing $133 million in funding slowed the training of personnel and purchasing of the machines in time for November elections, NFB officials said.


"Because we obviously do not want to have unsecured electoral processes going on, we realize it was foolish to put pressure on a system there's not enough time to do," NFB of Ohio President Barbara Pierce said.


The dispute was over whether officials should install a paper verification system on the new electronic machines. In two years, the machines that print on paper will be obsolete.


Fairfield County postponed using the system because of concerns the equipment would be incompatible with future equipment in two years.


"I realize they (the NFB) wanted DREs out there," Fairfield County Board of Elections Director Alice Nicolia said. "But in light of the controversy over equipment, it's in their best interest that we don't place it out there right now. It's best if we wait and make sure it's secure and fitted within the requirements of the Ohio Revised Code."


Elections Board member Fred Strawser is pleased with the NFB's withdrawal.


"It was illogical in my opinion to buy today's voting equipment and turn right around in two years or less and retrofit the 2006 technology to a 2004 machine," Strawser said. "It didn't make sense. And we know when you work with technology, computers, etc., that it changes every day."


Nicolia also acknowledged potential technology issues.


"You run a high risk that the equipment will not work without problems," Nicolia said. "If we allow the vendor to create the technology, and they have a two-year period to work on it, then in 2006, we will have technology that voters feel comfortable with."


Nicolia said the disabled will be properly accommodated.


Copyright 2004 Lancaster Eagle-Gazette. All rights reserved.



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