Voting soon to go high-tech





June 24, 2005


The voting machine's computer-generated voice is pleasant and encouraging: "Touch the screen to print a paper record of your selections," coos the AVC Edge Touch Screen. "After you cast your ballot, the word 'accepted' will be printed."


One of several high-tech voting systems studied by Nassau and Suffolk election officials, the touch screen - or a rival optical scanner - is set to become the face of Election Day for New York voters next year.


With $221 million in federal funding at stake, counties are pressed to install the technologies before a 2006 deadline.


New York is the last state to enact the Help America Vote Act legislation, which passed four years ago. The state laws, which Gov. George Pataki said he would sign this week, are meant to reduce fraud and prevent mistakes.


Nassau is set to replace 1,500 lever-operated machines that served for decades, said Eleanor Sciglibaglio, a Democratic Party deputy commissioner. "We've gotten a jump on the process and invited five companies to demonstrate voting systems," she said.


Nassau is looking at systems from Liberty Election Systems, Danaher Corp.'s Guardian Voting, Avant Vote-Trakker, Election Systems & Software and Sequoia Voting Systems, which makes the AVC Edge Touch Screen.


The Suffolk Board of Elections will let voters practice on spare machines, whether optical scanners or touch screens, said Republican Party elections commissioner Robert Garfinkle. One major goal is to have a verifiable paper trail that preserves voter anonymity, he said. "We're going to do everything we can to make sure the voters can trust the system."


The national and state League of Women Voters favor optical scanners.


"We think the optical scanner best meets the four criteria we have, which we call SARA - secure, accurate, recountable and accessible," said election specialist Aimee Allaud of the New York chapter.


Many, though, want to keep the old machines and distrust new technology, said Sondra Irvine, president of the Smithtown League of Women Voters.


"The main concerns are about fraud," Irvine said, "the possibility of there being no way to check that what goes into the machine is what comes out."


Copyright 2005 Newsday Inc.



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