Mineral Wells Index, Mineral Wells, TX

Local News

November 3, 2008

Electronic voting is a touchy issue

Voting officials must decide what to do when voters report problems casting ballots on touch-screen voting machines.


A year-old headline from www.opednews.com reads, “US to NY: You Gotta HAVA Faulty Voting Machine.” The article describes a U.S. District Court case, in which a Department of Justice attorney successfully argued, “that even though no electronic voting systems exist that meet NY's voting technology standards, NY must use the faulty technology.”

“We had a perfectly good optical scan machine,” Palo Pinto County Judge Mike Smiddy said of voting machines the county previously used for elections, “but it did not qualify [for HAVA compliance].”

Smiddy said the county started implementing the HAVA-compliant iVotronic voting machines “at about the time I came into office.” He was sworn into office in September 2005.

The electronic touch-screen machine reads pressure from a voter's finger and selects a corresponding vote. For residents who vote by mail, the county uses an optical scan voting system. This system enables voters to mark their choices on pre-printed ballots and an ES&S; M100 machine scans each ballot, automatically computing the totals for each candidate or issue.

While the county received funding to help put electronic voting in place, Smiddy cited this as a “federal and state mandate that everybody go to electronic voting [in] reaction to punch card ballots in Florida.”

In the 2000 presidential election, almost two million ballots were reportedly disqualified because they registered multiple votes - “overvoting” - or no votes - “undervoting” - when run through vote-counting machines.

In response to the election confusion, “hanging chads” and “dimpled ballots,” the U.S. Congress passed HAVA, which was signed into law by President Bush in October 2002.

According to County Auditor Sharon Allen, Palo Pinto County applied for four of six possible HAVA grants. Two of these - the Voting System Accessibility grant of $60,000 and the General HAVA Compliance grant of $199,913.65 - aided the county's original purchase of electronic voting machines for $238,431.

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