The Valley News, Highlights from the community newspaper

of the Greater Fulton Area and the Oswego River Valley of Central New York


July 2, 2005


Future of the ‘ballot box’

on display in Oswego County

by Andrew Henderson


The future technology of voting was on display Tuesday at the Oswego County Office Building in Oswego.


With the federal government requiring new electronic voting machines by 2006, the Oswego County Board of Elections had three vendors—ES&S, Liberty Vote, and Seqouia—demonstrate their new electronic voting technology Tuesday.


Elections Commissioners William Scriber and Donald Wart invited all county legislators, town board members, and city councilors to see first hand the new technology, which will replace the AVM lever machine used in Oswego County. The voting systems available included both direct recording electronic and optical scan.


The Help America Vote Act was passed Oct. 29, 2002 and updated equipment must be in place by Jan. 1, 2006. The law requires new voting machines as well as handicapped-accessible poling locations. The federal government will fund the new equipment.


Residents in the Village of Phoenix are already familiar with one of the three vendors. The county board of elections used technology from Sequoia two years ago during the village’s election.


"They did the mayoral election in Phoenix with these machines," said Larry Tonelli, New York State manager for Seqouia.


According to Tonelli, Seqouia’s machines incorporate full-facing direct recording electronic voting capabilities. The machines also feature audio voting for those who are hearing impaired.


Voters using Seqouia’s machines simply press buttons on the ballot to cast their votes. The machines will not allow voters to over-vote a ballot and voters may review their choices and make changes if desired.


The difference between Seqouia’s machines and the other two machines is that Seqouia’s voting machines are already being used around the country, Tonelli said.


"This is not a prototype," he noted. "Everything else here has never been used. They are prototypes. There are 20,000 of these machines around the United States right now. These have been out for over 10 years. All what we are adding is what the law is requiring and new technology."


ES&S, based in Omaha, Neb., is offering digital full-face touch-screen voting machines called "iVotronicLS" that offer flexibility with audio and zoom capabilities and a high-speed thermal printer.


The machines also have the capability of storing up to 20 election districts, which allows for faster voting throughout an election, said Gene Seets, regional sales manager for ES&S.


"This is a product that was kind of designed for New York," said Seets. "We put together a lot of technology that we have in about 20 other states and started talking to a lot of the election officials and administrators throughout the state to see how they wanted it to look."


The machine is different from the other two because it is a completely digital ballot that offers multiple language capabilities as well as different font sizes. The machine also includes a help section where voters can touch on the screen to receive help, and a printer that allows voters to confirm their votes.


"As they go through the ballot, they can sit here and watch their ballot and print it out," Seets said. "If they decided to choose someone different, they can select another candidate and it will let them know. Before they can officially cast their ballot, they will see a summary that will highlight areas where they might have missed races."


Two of the main selling points for Liberty Vote’s voting machines are that they are small in size and look exactly like the current ATM lever machines. The machines are the first federally certified full-facing voting machines in the United States to meet the requirements of the Federal Voting Systems Standards 2002 NASED-certification process.


"We take a lot of pride in that," said Robert Witko, a Liberty Vote representative. "It looks identical to the existing ballot face that you have now—the same pointer style and the same font. Instead of clicking a lever, you push a button."


The machines also include a screen where voters can double-check who they voted for, Witko said.


"The advantage of our system over the others is its compact design," noted Witko. "We have a customized storage rack that would allow for the storage of six of our machines to one of the other systems."


The machine collapses into the size of an enlarged briefcase.


The county board of elections will be using written comments from local officials as they make their decision on a voting system.


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