Saturday, June 14th, 2008
By William Kincaid
Elections board to pick voting system
Special meeting set to choose between optical or touchscreen voting
  The Mercer County Board of Elections will hold a special emergency meeting with county commissioners Monday morning to determine what voting system - optical or touchscreen - will be used in the November presidential election.
The meeting will be at 8:30 a.m. in the election office at the courthouse.
In April, Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner recommended Ohio counties ditch their touchscreen voting machines by the November general election in favor of optical scan of paper ballots.
The Mercer County Board of Elections, which had been using touchscreens for the past few years, complied with the recommendation early and switched to the optical scan machines for the March primary election.
Brunner's office also is requiring that all ballots be counted at the precincts and not brought to one location for a central count. The order was made so a count was completed before ballots were transported, where tampering could be a possibility.
Only three counties in Ohio were still doing central counts when Brunner made this order - Mercer, Van Wert and Cuyahoga. Mercer County ballots are all transported to the courthouse to be counted.
Commissioners say it will cost the county $100,000 to acquire the additional scanners needed to count the optical scan ballots at each precinct.
Due to the high cost, commissioners want the board to use the county's touchscreen voting machines in November so the county does not have to buy additional scanners. Commissioner Jerry Laffin said it was his understanding that counties could use touchscreen machines in November, even though Brunner recommends optical scan.
But some election board officials believe that $100,000 price tag is grossly over-estimated.
Also, if the county reverts to its stored, 172 touchscreen voting machines, 91 of them must be retrieved from Hancock County. Mercer County lent the machines for free in January to Hancock County, which had its machines destroyed due to flood waters.
At Monday's meeting, a cost comparison of the two different systems will be reviewed. Officials will look at equipment costs, such as scanners and ballot boxes, and service contracts.
"We kind of like the optical scan," election board Chairman Del Kramer said this week during a meeting.
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