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GarCo turning to electronic voting

Post Independent/Kara K. PearsonMark Carter, with Hart Intercivic, demonstrates an eSlate electronic voting system that the Garfield County is considering for purchase, Thursday at the County Administration Building.
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Garfield County voters will have a new voting system to learn come November. The Secretary of State has required all counties to adopt electronic voting machines in time for the August primaries. Garfield County Clerk and Recorder Mildred Alsdorf and her election staff got a close look Thursday at Hart Intercivic voting machines, which may be the ones voters will see at election time.The state office has also committed approximately $183,000 to cover the voting machines and software, Alsdorf said, to meet the requirements of the Help America Vote Act.The Hart machines, called “eSlate” or direct recording equipment, will make vote counting easier but may prove a challenge for some voters.

On Thursday, several vision and hearing impaired folks tested out the Hart equipment. Most took about 10 minutes to figure out the buttons on the voting tablet and fill out their ballots. Some said they had trouble reading the electronic ballot.The machines are designed to be used by disabled voters for the most part without assistance. Unlike the more common touch screen voting machines, the eSlate electronic voting device uses buttons mounted on a tablet with a large computer-like screen built into a portable voting booth. Voters navigate through the ballot with a large wheel inset into the tablet that allows the voter to scroll through the candidates’ names and make a mark by the selected candidate’s name. At election time, voters receive an access number after having their registration confirmed. They enter the number into the tablet to receive their ballot on the eSlate screen. In Colorado, votes will also be recorded on paper that is printed from the eSlate tablet.”I won’t have anything to do with (a system) that doesn’t have a paper trail,” Alsdorf said.

Election judges monitor and control the tablets from a separate unit that contains a memory card that records the votes. The card is removed at the central counting place, which in Garfield County is at the county courthouse, and inserted into the clerk and recorder’s election computers, which tally the votes.Hart also manufactures a machine that will scan paper ballots. Those cost $4,500.Cost of the eSlate machines and booths is $2,400 and software would run about $25,000 for Garfield County. Software is priced at “$1 per registered voter,” said regional sales executive Mark Carter. There are about 23,000 registered voters in the county.Hart recommends one voting machine per 400 voters, Carter said.



Alsdorf said the county could save on the system cost because she intends to combine the existing 27 precincts into nine.A total of 40 counties – out of 65 – in Colorado have contracted for the Hart system, Carter said.Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. 510dgray@postindependent.com


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