Sunday, March 28, 2004

Just the FAQs on voting machines

Frequently asked questions about new voting machines:

Q. What are they?

The focus is on the new generation of computerized, direct recording electronic (DRE) or touch-screen voting devices, similar in function to ATMs.

Q. How do DREs work?

Voters record their choices electronically, using a touch screen or pad. Votes are stored in redundant memory units, using cryptographic schemes to verify votes and prevent alteration.

Q. Why are we switching?

After the 2000 Florida fiasco, Congress decided that punch-card ballot systems should be replaced before the next presidential election, and funded their replacement.

Q. Who uses them?

More than 10 percent of the nation's voters in 2000, with nearly 29 percent expected this year. Most of Kentucky, including Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties, has been using DREs for several years without incident. Malfunctions and errors are practically "nonexistent," reports the League of Women Voters of Kentucky. Hamilton County has tested them in small levy elections.

Q. When do we get them?

Clermont County uses the reliable, non-controversial optical-scan voting. Warren and Butler are among more than two dozen Ohio counties that should have DREs this fall. Because of its dispute with the state, Hamilton County will not have a new system until 2005.

Q. What will it cost?

About $120 million statewide, $8 million-$10 million in Hamilton County. Most of the cost is paid by federal grants, with the rest from the state.

Ray Cooklis

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