Thursday, January 13, 2005

Goodbye Punch Card Ballots

Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell has decided that optical scan voting machines will be used uniformly in all 88 of Ohio's counties, as the Cincinnati Enquirer reports:

"It is just the most efficient and practical way to proceed," Secretary of State Ken Blackwell said Wednesday, as he made the optical scanner the state's primary voting system.

The decision was essentially arrived at by default. First, Ohio needed to replace the punch card ballots by January 2006, as required by the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). Ohio legislature also required a paper trail for the replacement system.

Currently, no electronic voting machines that produce a paper trail have been approved by the state. And when approved, it's estimated that they would have cost approximately $80M more than the optical scan device.

The result: the counties get their choice of two optical scan systems. The ballots will be scanned at each precinct and will warn the voter in real time of undervotes or overvote situations.

Some county election officials are complaining, saying that they didn't have a chance to provide input into the decision. But overall, I think it's a pretty solid one given the circumstances. The idea of uniform voting machines across the entire state is very encouraging.

A combination of electronic and optical scan machines would eventually open up new allegations against one type or the other. Electronic voting machines without a paper trail would always have some who were convinced they were rigged.

Optical scan it is.

Pass the number 2 pencil please.