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VT Board spurns voting scanner, wants to stick with hand counts

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Black Box Voting : Latest News : Mainstream News Reports: (VT) Board spurns voting scanner, wants to stick with hand counts

Posted by Bev Harris on Monday, January 22, 2007 - 08:43 am:

BBV perspective on this article: Note the difference in tone in this
hand count paper ballot town. One might almost call it "The Joy of
Voting". It's refreshing, and calls to mind the great American spirit.

Note also that the price quote for the Diebold AccuVote Scanner here
is $4500, which is $2000 less than the quote for the same machine in
Londonderry (NH) and Marlborough (MA).

Link for Londonderry $6500 quote:

Link for Marlborough $6500 quote:

Brattleboro Reformer - 1-11-07, by Patrick J. Crowley

Board spurns voting scanner

Link to full article

NEWFANE -- The town is asking people not to vote -- by machine,

For the Selectboard, it goes against an age-old tradition that they
would like to hold on to.

The town has always counted votes by hand and officials don't see why
they need to change.

So when the state asked Newfane if it wanted a free voting machine,
the first reaction was uh-uh.

"There's a certain tradition about it," said Selectboard Chairman
Hendrick "Piet" van Loon. "I wouldn't call it a social event, but it
is a community endeavor with some history and tradition."

Secretary of State Deb Markowitz sent an e-mail to all the Vermont
towns with more than 800 residents that still count by hand to see if
they wanted a free voting machine.

The catch is that voters have to approve it first at Town Meeting. The
$4,500 Diebold AccuVote optical scanner is being paid for by federal
grant money earmarked for the Help America Vote Act of 2002.

The question will be put to Newfane voters in March, but none of the
local officials are going to bat for it.

"When people of the community come together and volunteer their time
on Election Day, there is wondrous social cohesion generated that a
machine can't duplicate," Town Clerk Jahari Lee Overton said in an
e-mail message.
Not every town is as enamored with the old-fashioned counting as

Wilmington voters will also take up the question of the voting machine
but officials there like the idea of change.

"I am going to recommend that they consider voting for it," said Town
Clerk Susan Haughwout.

The voting machine alleviates errors, Haughwout said, which was
painfully made clear when Wilmington recounted its ballots for state
auditor in last month.

The recount uncovered 24 mistakes in Wilmington votes tallied for Tom
Salmon and incumbent Randy Brock. Newfane found 13 errors. Salmon was
eventually declared the winner by 241 votes.

"I do feel that the vote tabulator machine would provide us with more
accurate results," said Haughwout.

Only 74 of the 246 towns in Vermont now use the optical scanning
machines, according to Markowitz.

Brattleboro and Guilford both use the machines and officials say they
make elections run much more smoothly.

"I have faith in these machines," said Brattleboro Town Clerk Annette

Cappy said if the town didn't have the optical scan for its ballots,
poll workers would be counting well into the morning after elections.

"It makes a big difference in the length of time I have to be there at
night," said Guilford Town Clerk Barbara Oles, who added that she was
comfortable with the machine because there is still a paper trail.

The machine is an optical scanner that reads standardized ballots
after voters fill them out much like a standardized test.

Even though the Secretary of State's office would pay for the machine,
towns would face an annual maintenance fee as well as a setup fee each
election, which could range from $200 to $600, depending on the
election and number of candidates.

A maintenance fee, charged annually, would be between $150 and $250,
depending on the size of the town. Markowitz added that some towns
that had the machine longer could see a lower charge.

But Markowitz admitted that for many towns it might be less expensive
to count by hand.

Back in Newfane, the Selectboard doesn't want to endorse the machine
without more information.

"We need more input," said Selectboard member Joseph Mandell. His main
gripe is that the Selectboard hasn't had enough of a chance to weigh
the pros and cons associated with using the machine. The board is
currently working on bringing in an expert to do just that.

But Mandell, too, is wistful for the good old days.

"It's the whole notion of a sense of community," said Selectboard
"It's just something that's been going on for many years."
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Bev Harris is executive director of Black Box Voting, Inc. an advocacy group committed to restoring citizen oversight to elections.
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