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Voting systems OK

September 02, 2002|by EDWARD MARSHALL

edwardm@herald-mail.com

The Washington County Board of Elections on Friday conducted a public demonstration of the electronic voting system that will be used in the Sept. 10 election.

Elections board President Richard Coss and Secretary Jim Mowbley performed the demonstration of the Optech III-P Eagle vote tabulator at the Washington County Agricultural Center on Sharpsburg Pike.

"We are testing the logic and accuracy of the system," Coss said.

The test was performed in accordance with the Maryland Code of Regulations. The code requires that within at least 10 days before an election the local elections board must have the system tested to make certain it will accurately count votes cast.

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The Optech III-P Eagle is an optical scanning voting system that uses mark sense technology.

Under the system, voters use a special marking device to complete an arrow or fill in an oval next to the candidate's name. Voters then insert the ballot into a device that scans and adds it to the vote total.

If a voter incorrectly fills out the ballot by over-voting or not filling out the entire ballot, the device will reject it.

"The voter would then be given the opportunity fill out another ballot correctly and re-cast it," Mowbley said.

Voters will be given up to three chances to fill out a ballot correctly, and any ballot that is rejected will not be counted in the vote total.

The system, although not infallible, makes a repeat of the controversy in Florida during the 2000 presidential election virtually impossible.

"In the 2000 election, Florida had about 6,000 over-votes; here we only had about 20," Mowbley said.

In a report compiled in 2001 by Gov. Paris Glendening's Special Committee on Voting Systems & Election Procedures in Maryland, the committee described the optical scanning systems as "reliable, accurate, and secure."

Among Maryland's 23 counties and the City of Baltimore, 19 jurisdictions use an optical scanning voting system. Sixteen of them use the Optech III-P Eagle vote tabulator.

Washington County began using the system in 1994. It leases the systems for its 43 precincts from Election Systems Software Inc. at an annual cost of approximately $64,000.

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