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Fairfield County Switches to Touch Screen Voting

Three-quarters of Ohio voters cast their ballots using punch cards. But the punch card system is coming to an end thanks to the federal government which has mandated their elimination by 2006. Half of Ohio's counties will use electronic machines tomorrow - most will use touch screen machines manufactured by Ohio-based Diebold.

For the past few months, the staff of the Fairfield County Board of Elections has been visiting libraries, schools, even the County Fair to help voters learn to use new touch screen voting machines.

Fairfield County will begin using about 500 touch screen voting machines made by Diebold this election day. County elections director Alice Nicolia says the board chose Diebold after examining several manufacturers. She says the machine, called the "Accu-Vote TSX" is accurate and secure.

"The memory card is locked into the voting device and it also has tamper tape on it so that it is in a secure environment and in that way we can justify the fact that is secure because of the two-fold way that it is locked into the housing," Nicolia says.

After the voter completes the ballot, it can be reviewed on the screen and a paper ballot with a tally of selections can be printed behind a window. The two-fold process, according to Nicolia, helps the voter be sure the completed ballot is correct.

"It has your touch screen where you're going to view the votes and then it also has the paper audit trail where you can cross check what you touched on the screen and the person you thought you voted for and the issue that you thought you voted for or against is exactly the way you voted on your audit trail," Nicolia says.

And unlike the punch card system with its hanging chads and multiple punches, the electronic machine cannot - as Alice Nicolia describes it - be "over-voted."

With this, if you attempted to over-vote, the system will not left you over vote. Now you can still under-vote, because that's your choice if you don't want to vote for someone because you don't have to. But as far as you voting for more candidates than is allowable for the race, you cannot do that with this system," says Nicolia.Nicolia advises voters to become acquainted with the ballot before they arrive at the polls. She believes as people become more aquatinted with the machines, the voting process will be faster and easier. Franklin County's new machines are scheduled to debut next May.