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California voting methods prompt debate { March 2 2004 }

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Tuesday, March 2, 2004 ]
Calif. voting methods prompt debate about local election procedure

By Jessica Cambridge
Collegian Staff Writer
California voters today will continue using electronic touch-screen voting machines -- technology that some Penn State students would support having in Centre County.

A California judge refused to grant a temporary restraining order sought by California citizens against 17 counties using electronic touch-screen voting software.

Some California citizens wanted to delay the election so the voting machines could be tested to make sure that voting would be secure. Three studies have cited problems with the Diebold system being used, such as being able to tamper with election results.

In Pennsylvania, only two areas have electronic voting; one is Philadelphia, which uses Danaher electronic voting systems and the other is Montgomery County, which uses Sequoia voting software.

Centre County voting takes place through punch-card ballots, the same type of punch cards used in the 2000 presidential election in Florida. Joyce McKinley, director of elections for Centre County, said that the county did not experience the problems that occurred in Florida. "We haven't looked into [electronic voting systems] yet, but we're keeping our eyes on it," McKinley said.

Jason Arora (sophomore-bioengineering and premedicine) said he thinks there are both advantages and disadvantages to electronic voting. "It is easier for people to mess around with and get into the system," Arora said. But he added that it might be easier to count the votes if electronic voting systems were used.

Some Penn State students did not think that electronic voting would attract more young voters. "If you're going to vote, you're going to vote. It may make it simpler. I don't think it will make more people go out to vote. I think it's a more personal decision," William Anderson (senior-finance) said.

Corinne Hanson (freshman-psychology) said she did not think that electronic voting would encourage more voting, but that such technology may limit voting. "I think it might scare some of the older generation, but I don't think it would affect the younger [voters]," Hanson said.

The Pennsylvania Legislature will sponsor voting hearings that will include Penn State graduate Rebecca Mercuri, a voting expert and founder of Notable Software Inc.

The Diebold voting software program, which is used in California, came under scrutiny after Swarthmore College students posted Diebold company memos that stated that it was not using certified software. The Diebold system does not allow for a paper printout of a vote. Mercuri said she does not support the use of a system that does not provide a paper printout for the voter to verify his or her decision.

Sequoia is currently working on a printer that would verify a person's vote. The printout would be stored at the voting center and the voters could not take these slips of paper with them.

Mercuri added that electronic voting without a paper printout provides no efficient way to do a recount.

"You have to trust that it will be tallied correctly. It doesn't give you the checks and balances. They offer a frighteningly larger way of tampering with an election that we've never seen before," Mercuri said.

She said many states with punch-card ballots are switching to electronic voting systems. Mercuri and Kim Alexander, the president of the California Voter Foundation, said they both support the use of optical scan voting systems. In this process, the voter fills out a form that is read by the scanner. "[Optical scan voting systems are] very reliable and really inexpensive," Alexander said.

Alfie Charles, a Sequoia spokesman, said the Sequoia advantage program allows for a full-faced panel with push buttons to select each candidate. "The most difficult aspect is ensuring voter confidence. We routinely find that voters prefer electronic voting in the 90 to 95 percent range. It's up to our industry and election officials to explain the rigors of testing and the verifiability of results, so voters can cast their ballots with confidence," Charles said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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California voting methods prompt debate { March 2 2004 }
Computer voting snafus plague california
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Ohio contracts for electronic voting machines
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Republican county commissioner has concerns { March 4 2004 }
San bernardino county blames human error for delay { March 3 2004 }
San jose technical problems reported { March 2 2004 }
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