Public Gets A Look at Voting Machines

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Discussions at a town hall meeting Thursday will help decide how we vote in Nevada. State elections officials met with voters to talk about new technology - and the challenges it will bring.

The Help America Vote Acts, or HAVA, mandates that all states eliminate punch card ballots and lever machines by 2004.

In Nevada, election officials are choosing between two touch screen systems and tonight voters had their say.

It was a show-and-tell for manufacturers. Voters heard from Sequoia and Diebold about how the competing touch screen systems work.

Both have keypad screens and work in a similar way, taking voters through the candidates and ballot issues one at a time.

But the key difference is that Clark County, which makes up 70% of the state's voters, already has the Sequoia machines. Secretary of State Dean Heller has made it clear he wants one system statewide for consistency.

Plus ,it would cost upwards of $9 million to replace the Clark County system.

"Cost is an issue but the most important factor is security and accuracy," Heller said.

Voters echoed that sentiment.

Lou Montulli has worked in the tech industry for 15 years. He says it's important to have a system that can provide paper records. "When you have a system with no paper trail you trust the computer with no way of verifying it," he said.

Susan Brown works with senior citizens. She says many freeze up at the idea of computer voting. "Are we gonna be able to staff voting areas with people who can walk voters through? We have to keep it easy to read and easy to vote."

Secretary Heller says the new system should improve voter turnout and election accuracy. He plans to announce his choice of machines early next week.

Both systems cost about the same, about $3,000 for each unit. The state will get almost $16 million in federal funds to help implement the new system.

The machines should be in the state by March so poll workers will have time to train before the September primaries.

Absentee ballots are still accepted and will be optically scanned.