Board will reconsider new voting machines

Elections panel wanted optical-scan over touch-screen system
By Michael Hewlett
Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Forsyth County Board of Elections will reconsider Thursday its recommendation that the county buy voting machines that scan paper ballots to replace the current punch-card system at the request of Forsyth County commissioners.

And commissioners will decide whether to accept the board’s recommendation later that day.

Last week, Kathie Chastain Cooper, the county’s director of elections, was visibly angered when the board of elections recommended optical-scan machines from Elections Systems & Software Co.

She had favored the touch-screen machines from Diebold Election Systems, a company mired in controversy over the reliability and security of its equipment.

Two law firms representing investors have sued Diebold for misleading them about its voting machines, and chief executive Walden W. O’Dell resigned abruptly last week. He had been criticized for sending a fundraising letter in 2003 in which he said that he would guarantee Ohio for President Bush.

Chastain Cooper said she likes the Diebold Accuvote touch-screen system because it has a tamper-proof paper trail that lets voters see where their votes have been marked, and the machines are not as heavy as the touch-screen machines offered by Elections Systems & Software Co.

Chastain Cooper also said that the optical-scan machines require large and bulky paper ballots, which would require more storage space. She said that more precinct workers would have to be hired, and that recounts would be harder to do than on touch-screen machines.

Critics in Forsyth County and across the country have argued that electronic-voting machines have security flaws that could enable someone to hack into the system and manipulate election results.

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