Officials meet to discuss voting machines
Potential problems with touch-screen voting machines are being examined by Nevada Secretary of State Dean Heller’s office.
But, according to Carson City Clerk-Recorder Alan Glover and Douglas County Clerk Barbara Reed, that’s not the issue before the Nevada Association of Counties tonight in Reno. NACO called a town hall meeting to discuss the federal mandates to modernize the way Americans vote.
The meeting is designed to give Northern Nevadans a chance to ask questions and present their concerns about changes in the voting machines and laws. It begins at 6 p.m. in the Washoe County Commission Chambers in Reno.
Area election officials say voters are going to have to get used to the idea of electronic touch-screen voting.
Under the Help America Vote Act, the 30-year-old punch card voting systems and even older lever machines must be gone by the 2006 elections. The act was passed by Congress following the confusion in the 2000 Florida vote-count.
Among the issues expected are concerns by some members of the public that the electronic machines do not provide them with a verifiable receipt or paper trail in case of recounts and challenges.
“But they don’t get that now,” said Reed. “Most people seem to have forgotten that all they get now is a receipt saying they voted. It doesn’t say how, so why are they demanding that from the new system?”
For clerks, touch-screen makes sense and should help reduce counting errors.
The other major issue is teaching people to use the new machines. Reed said that shouldn’t be nearly as big a problem as some fear because the touch-screens work much like ATM machines.
“Most seniors and others already know how to use ATMs,” she said.
The biggest issue isn’t on the agenda tonight. That is, which of two major touch-screen systems to choose. Heller favors Sequoia, a system already in use by Clark County. A number of the clerks, including Reed and Glover, favor Diebold, which they say is “cutting edge” compared to Sequoia’s 6- to 8-year-old system.
Glover and Reed say Heller shouldn’t try to force the smaller counties to buy an aging system just because Clark County already has it.
Heller points out the federal government is sending the money to his office and that the Legislature put the responsibility for making the state comply with the voting act on his shoulders. Nevada qualifies for a total of $15 million to buy new machines and implement the new rules.
He said Clark has used the Sequoia system successfully since 1996 and that it is proven. He also said having the same machines in all counties would be better for voters who move around the state and better for resolving any programming or other problems with the systems on election night.
Glover and Reed said a major difference between the two systems is the portability of the machines. The newer Diebold machine weighs half the 46 pounds of each Sequoia voting machine and takes up far less storage space.
Both also said the new Diebold allows them to take a cordless touch-screen out to the curb for voters not mobile enough to come into an elections center.
“We do that a lot with the punchcard system. With the Sequoia we’d have to wheel the whole machine out,” said Glover.
“The Sequoia system would pretty much end curb-side voting, and we do a lot of that in Douglas,” Reed said.