Unified Voting System Planned For Nevada

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Scrapping earlier plans, Secretary of State Dean Heller now says he'll spend up to $8 million on new voting machines for Washoe County and Nevada's outlying counties for the 2004 elections.

Heller hopes to have the computerized touch screens installed in the counties by March to eliminate the need to continue punchcard voting and optical scan systems.

Heller also hopes to provide federal money to Clark County to buy additional voting machines to handle an increasing population. Clark County already has spent more than $16 million for touch-screen machines, Heller's chief deputy, Renee Parker, said.

Heller's change of mind drew praise from Carson City Clerk Alan Glover, who represents county clerks in many legislative matters. But Glover said some clerks are unhappy with Heller's plans to buy the same voting machines, rather than let the counties decide which company to choose to acquire the touch-screen units.

Carson, Douglas, Storey, Elko and Pershing counties have asked for quotes on prices for Diebold voting machines.

"I want every voter treated the same," Heller said. "With what we have been seeing in other states, I want a vote counted exactly the same in all corners of the state.

"I don't want to see different machines with different vendors with different margin of errors. If you have those issues out there, you always subject your state to potential litigation."

Clark County has Sequoia voting units. The competition boils down to Diebold and Sequoia for the $6 million to $8 million contract.

Heller already has received $5 million from the federal government for improving the state's voting system and expects another $5.7 million before the end of the year.

Heller initially planned to install a statewide voter registration system first with the federal grant and later buy the voting machines. But he said county clerks didn't want both projects being developed in an election year.

The Legislature allowed Heller to select voter machines and a voter registration system without going out to bid. He hopes to have the statewide voter registration system installed by 2005 in time for the 2006 election.