US readies e-voting systems as election approaches

Many US states switch to paper ballots in continuing migration from touch-screen e-voting machines

Florida moves to optical scanning

After several controversial elections, including the infamous hanging chads of 2000, Florida continues to move to modernize all of its voting systems.

All voting systems in the state will use optically scanned paper ballots for this election under a state law approved last year. The paper ballots and optical-scanning system replace touch-screen machines that were scrapped in about 15 counties because of concerns about reliability, security and accuracy.

Jennifer Davis, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Kurt Browning, said that each precinct will also have a touch-screen voting machine available for disabled voters. By 2012, all precincts must have a ballot-marking device to allow handicapped voters to use paper ballots that can then be scanned as part of the process, she said.

"We had a very smooth primary," Davis said of the performance of the new voting systems. For the November general election, the state will have vendors deployed across the region with backup machines and technicians in case they're needed, she said.

"We have been communicating with county election supervisors" to be as prepared as possible for Election Day. "We're looking good." The state has about 10.2 million registered voters.

California has 'top to bottom' review of voting systems

This year, the votes of most Californians will be cast on optically scanned paper ballots, replacing a mix of electronic touch-screen machines and paper ballots.

The move follows a massive "top-to-bottom" review of the state's voting systems last year that was ordered by California Secretary of State Debra Bowen.

The review was conducted because of concerns about touch-screen voting systems, and it uncovered a number of security vulnerabilities, access problems, and accuracy and reliability questions with the machines, said Kate Folmar, a Bowen spokeswoman.

After the review, Bowen decertified several touch-screen models for use in the state, then recertified them after adding security and auditing conditions. The changes were completed by the state's February primary earlier this year. One touch-screen machine will be used in each voting precinct for handicapped voters.

"Secretary Bowen is confident that the election will be more accurate, reliable and secure," Folmar said. "We have had a couple elections now with the paper-based systems, and they've gone smoothly.

"Everyone expects a strong turnout, and the 58 counties have been preparing for that," she said. The state has 16.1 million registered voters.

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Todd R. Weiss

Computerworld (US)

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