Speaker backs optical scan voting

Computer engineer urges counties to reject more expensive touch screen devices.

July 6, 2005

By Brooke J. Sherman



For more information, go to:

# The New York League of Women Voters:

# New Yorkers for Verified Voting:


Schuyler County Administrator Timothy O'Hearn joined more than 30 other people Tuesday night in Elmira to hear about the choices New York counties will face when they purchase new voting machines.


O'Hearn listened to Bo Lipari's presentation at Steele Memorial Library, which supported the purchase of paper balloting optical scan voting machines over more expensive electronic touch screen or push-button voting devices. Lipari, a computer software engineer, is director of New Yorkers for Verified Voting.


"This certainly raised a lot of questions," O'Hearn said of the presentation. "It was absolutely great information. It's always good to get different viewpoints."


Schuyler County has yet to make a decision on what type of device to purchase, though O'Hearn said he thought the county election commissioners were leaning toward the touch screen devices.


"We need more information," O'Hearn said.


The meeting, sponsored by the League of Women Voters from Chemung, Schuyler and Steuben counties, hoped to provide some of that information Tuesday night. The state Legislature recently approved legislation that puts the power to choose voting machines in county election commissioners' hands. The state will get $220 million in federal funds to help comply with new voting requirements to reduce fraud and making voting easier.


League members now plan to take the details of the voting machine choices to county legislators, executives and election commissioners with phone calls, letters and meetings, said Maureen Pugliese, co-president of the Chemung County League of Women Voters.


"I think (local politicians) needed to be here to hear the alternatives," she said. "For them not to even show us the courtesy left us a little disappointed."


Lipari's presentation said that paper ballot optical scan machines will be easier to use, longer lasting and more cost-effective for counties and voters in the long run. In optical scanning, voters fill out a ballot similar to a lottery ticket or standardized test and then submit it to a scanning device that reads and registers the vote in two seconds.


Makers of the optical scan machines also make the more expensive, larger touch screen or push button models, and therefore aren't pushing for election commissioners to choose the cheaper models, Lipari said.


The touch screen devices would cost $8,000 to $10,000 and would have to be purchased to replace every currently used lever voting machine, he said. The scanners, which cost about $5,000, can be purchased for each voting location. One scanner can serve at least 2,000 voters, he said.


Privacy booths, where voters would fill out the paper ballot, would cost about $160, he said. About 20 states are already using the paper ballot optical scan system with great success, he said, while Miami Dade County in Florida, which spent $24.5 million three years ago to purchase touch screen voting machines, is ready to throw the technology out and start over.


Eventually the decision comes back to the election commissioners in each county, Lipari said, encouraging those in attendance to get out, talk to local officials and raise awareness about the voting changes.


"This is how we will be voting for the next 20 years," he said.


Roland Coleman, 78, of Elmira, said he hopes the people hear the message.


"More politicians should be here to support and listen to the concerns of the people, unless they aren't interested in being re-elected," he said.


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