Originally created 11/04/02

Election will test new machines



The touchable screens operate like microwave oven or ATM - and Georgia voters will inaugurate thousands of them during Tuesday's election.

"We don't anticipate any problems," said Deborah Marshall, the executive director of the Columbia County Board of Elections, which will join Georgia's other 158 counties Tuesday in piloting a new polling system.

Statewide, voters will have 190,015 new touch-screen voting systems in use Tuesday, representing a $54 million investment in technology provided by Diebold Election Systems Inc.

"It's all done by finger now - no more punching ballots," Ms. Marshall said. "Everyone we've demonstrated the machines for has absolutely loved it."

Diebold deployed about 160 technicians throughout the state to organize and maintain the system, which represents the most costly contract of its kind in U.S. history, according to the Georgia Secretary of State's Office.

One of the benefits of the new system is that it allows a voter to correct a mistake - simply by touching the "X" to remove a vote and recast it for another candidate or question.

"Previously, with the old system, if there was a mistake, the voter had to physically go back and request another ballot and start over again," Ms. Marshall said.

Richmond and Columbia counties have undertaken extensive demonstrations of the new equipment to help ensure that voters will be comfortable with the machines.

"The state gave grants to help do all this," Ms. Marshall said. Columbia County received $7,000, and Richmond County received about $10,000.

"We had 14 teams - and they went to 119 sites: grocery stores, malls, churches, Rotary clubs, you name it."

Statewide, about 3,000 precincts will serve the 3,728,000 registered voters.

Reach Robert Pavey at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 119, or rpavey@augustachronicle.com.