Originally created 11/21/00

High-tech balloting? 112100 - The Augusta Chronicle



The fouled up voting process in Florida counties that has thrown the presidential race into legal and political turmoil has prompted talk all across the nation not only about "hanging chads," but also about improving the voting system.

How is that the most technologically advanced nation in the world has such antiquated voting methods? Georgia Secretary of State Cathy Cox says she'd like her state to go as high-tech as possible. She prefers ATM-style electronic voting, in which each voter is assigned a card and security code enabling them to vote via touch-screen computers.

The results would be immediately tabulated by a central processor. Wherever this system has been used it has received rave reviews. It's accurate, fast, convenient and all but impossible to tamper with. Goodbye, Chad.

The problem in Georgia, as elsewhere, is that high-tech balloting systems are expensive to install and boards of elections are usually at the bottom of the priority list at budget writing time. One of Florida's disputed counties, Broward, found it too expensive to cough up the $3 million necessary to put in optical scanner machines. They run about $4,000 each.

There have been scant complaints concerning Georgia's and South Carolina's punch ballots. Apparently they are neither confusing nor resistant to being perforated. Indeed, the punch card method is used by 84 percent of voting jurisdictions across the nation.

Richmond County Board of Elections Director Lynn Bailey is very confident of the punch-ballots she oversees, saying she would not flinch at being subject to the intense national scrutiny that several Florida counties are undergoing.

Let's hope it never comes to that.

Clearly, considering the expense involved, if Georgia is ever to go to high-tech scanners, local communities will need help from the state - something the Legislature may want to take a look at next year.

As for the Internet providing a solution to voting irregularities, forget it. The 'Net is too susceptible to hacker vandalism and vote manipulation; moreover, the Web and home and office PCs are not truly private.