http://www.wapakdailynews.com/articles/2005/08/17/news/news01.txt

Wapakoneta Daily News

Thursday, Aug. 18, 2005

 

Election board drops suit

 

By ERIN MILLER

 

Staff Writer

 

A settlement officially announced Monday between Election Systems & Software and Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell won the Auglaize County Election Board the chance to select ES&S touch-screen voting machines, but board members said Tuesday they will likely choose optical scan machines.

 

Board members on Tuesday gave Auglaize County Prosecuting Attorney Ed Pierce permission to file a motion to dismiss their lawsuit against Blackwell. The board joined the lawsuit in May after ES&S sought an injunction against Blackwell's voting machine selection deadlines. The settlement gives ES&S until Nov. 15 to earn certification on their touch-screen voting machines and sets a Sept. 15 deadline for county election boards to make a preliminary choice on a voting machine, with a final selection by Nov. 15.

 

"Because of the agreement, the board's in a position now where they can make a knowledgeable and voluntary choice," Pierce told board members. "All those things you sued for, you now have."

 

Board members are now leaning toward using optical scan machines in future elections for the county.

 

"I've been a tech person for years and I know that keeping it simple sometimes is the best solution," temporary board chairman Stan Wietholter said. "I know that optical scan is about as simple as you can get."

 

Board member Diana Hausfeld agreed, noting the difficulties poll workers and board members would have conducting a recount with the touch-screen machines' receipt tape printout, the state-mandated "paper trail" for votes. The sheets voters complete for the optical scan machines also function as an approved paper trail.

 

"I think it's wonderful," Board member Larry Fledderjohann said about the lawsuit's completion following the meeting. "I think it's high time it's settled. There was so much indecision with the (touch-screen machines)."

 

The tentative decision to use the optical scan system is a good decision for a county with a population the size of Auglaize County, Fledderjohann said, noting the amount of work it took board members and poll workers to prepare and to set up the touch-screen machines.

 

Jerry Amick, account service manager for ES&S, said Auglaize County's ES&S representative, Todd Mullen, suggested the county purchase 46 optical scan ballot counters and 25 Automark handicapped-accessible voting machines, at an approximate cost of $453,000. Auglaize County is set to receive about $480,000 from the Help America Vote Act to use for the purchase of voting equipment.

 

Amick also answered board questions about the payment status of the office's voting equipment. He said the board has paid for service and technical support but made no equipment payments for two years.

 

"My understanding was, Todd (Mullen) was going to get back to the commissioners with a payment plan, then this came out with a lawsuit and everything got put on hold," Fledderjohann said.

 

Board members said they believed former Elections Director Jean Burklo and former ES&S employee Joe McGinnis initiated a contract for the machines, but the payment plan was halted when the state mandated that voting machines include a paper receipt.

 

Hausfeld and Elections Director Linda Householder updated board members and Toni Slusser, Blackwell's field representative, about a software training session last week with representatives of Delaware County, which also uses ES&S software. Hausfeld and Householder said they asked the Delaware County employee to help them find records showing how the voter rolls were updated in 2003, but no information was found.

 

The representative told Hausfeld and Householder the Delaware County elections director could help Auglaize County with this year's update.

 

Copyright 2005, The Wapakoneta Daily News.

 

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