http://www.rapidcityjournal.com/articles/2005/04/23/news/local/news08.txt

Rapid City Journal: Serving Rapid City South Dakota

April 22, 2005

 

Electronic voting coming soon to S.D.

 

By Celeste Calvitto, Journal Staff Writer

 

South Dakota is on track to receive electronic touch-screen voting machines and optical-scan ballot counters by the end of this year, Secretary of State Chris Nelson said Friday.

 

The machines, designed to help disabled voters cast ballots in private without assistance, are required as part of the federal Help America Vote Act. By law, the machines must be in place for the primary elections in June 2006, but they will be used during some municipal elections in April of next year "so counties can get familiar with them," Nelson said.

 

Election Systems and Software is the vendor that will supply the machines for the $4.6 million program, Nelson said Friday. The federal government is funding 95 percent of the cost. Counties will pay the remaining 5 percent.

 

"The ES&S Automark will allow an individual with a disability to cast a private ballot without help for the first time in South Dakota history," Nelson said in a news release. "This new technology will allow South Dakota voters to mark their optical-scan ballot by touching a screen."

 

There will be one Automark machine at each polling place and that will be available to anyone. The current method of marking a ballot at a voting booth will also remain.

 

"On election days, the voter will have a choice between the old familiar voting booth or the newest in technology," Pennington County Auditor Julie Pearson said in a news release. "Pennington County will continue to use optical scan/paper ballots just as we have since 1987. The voter will choose to either mark the ballot with a pencil or with the new touch-screen Automark," she said.

 

Pearson also said the county has been able to buy new central scanning equipment to allow faster processing and counting of ballots.

 

"The new scanners will count twice as fast as our old ones," she said.

 

The cost to Pennington County for the Automark machines and the new scanners will be about $50,000, she said.

 

The program "will be a great advantage to the state of South Dakota," Pearson said. "Everybody in the state will have the same system, and if there is any troubleshooting, we can do it en masse."

 

The Help America Vote Act is federal legislation intended to assist states in improving their election procedures and vote-counting machinery. It is a result of the problems that Florida and Missouri had with their elections in 2000.

 

Contact Celeste Calvitto at 394-8438 or celeste.calvitto@rapidcityjournal.com

 

Copyright 2005 The Rapid City Journal

Rapid City, SD

 

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