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Fayette should have new voting machines by mid-April |

Fayette should have new voting machines by mid-April

| Thursday, March 23, 2006 12:00 a.m

With less than two months before the 2006 primary, Fayette County Commissioners said Wednesday that a Texas company guaranteed it will deliver state-mandated electronic voting machines by mid-April for training for election bureau employees and poll workers.

Although an order had not been finalized yesterday, county officials estimated that $1.1 million in federal grants will cover most, if not all, of the county’s expenses to switch from the lever voting machines purchased three decades ago.

While the commissioners praised the design of the eSlate system from Hart InterCivic, they reiterated their frustration that they had to replace the lever machines, which they project to have 20 years of use remaining.

Commissioners Angela Zimmerlink and Vincent Vicites also criticized governmental deadlines that pushed the county to buy the new equipment in time for the primary, although some vendors still are going through the state certification process.

The lever machines were decertified for state and federal elections after the passage of the Help America Vote Act of 2002, which was intended to fix voting irregularities claimed during the 2000 presidential election.

“This mandate has forced us to act on this even though we have good, reliable voting machines,” Vicites said.

County officials are expected to buy 278 voting machines and 105 judge booth controllers for use at the 105 precincts. The equipment has a life expectancy of 25 to 27 years and does not require special storage conditions, said Molly Terry, a regional sales manager for Hart.

At the polls, voters will use a gray dial to rotate through the choices in each race, then select a candidate by pressing the “enter” button. A ballot summary page will review the selections before the voter hits the red “cast ballot” button.

After the equipment arrives, the county will conduct a training session for election staff during a 20-day period and election judges and poll workers during 15 days, Zimmerlink said.

Currently, none of the state-certified machines has a voter-verified paper trail, but Zimmerlink said it might become an option in later elections if approved by the Pennsylvania Department of State.

Hart’s other Pennsylvania clients include Bedford and Lancaster counties. The $2,500 price per voting machine was set during negotiations with the Department of State.

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