- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 14, 2000

Officials in Florida, with a presidential election hanging in the balance, are holding paper ballots up to the light, arguing over "pregnant" chads and "swinging doors," and counting and recounting endless stacks of votes.
In Fairfax City and two other Northern Virginia communities, the election was over last Tuesday, the results 100 percent accurate.
The difference?
Fairfax City uses a computerized voting booth that eliminates the paper ballot and reduces the possibility of the human and counting-machine errors plaguing Florida.
Fairfax City's registrar, G. Lawrence Lamborn, said he is surprised the Florida county in the middle of the election dispute does not use the machine.
"As far as Florida is concerned and as a professional election official, I am a little embarrassed that a wealthy community like Palm Beach does not have the latest voting equipment," Mr. Lamborn said. "Wealthy communities there is no excuse."
Of the roughly 430,000 ballots cast in Palm Beach County, 19,000 had to be thrown out because voters had selected two presidential candidates. Some supporters of Democrat Al Gore also have complained that the ballots were misleading, causing them to vote instead for Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan. Election officials are tabulating all of the county's votes by hand.
Mr. Lamborn said Fairfax City has employed the R.F. Shoup Shouptronic 1242 in all seven of its precincts since 1992, at a cost of about $5,000 for a new machine.
Out of the 9,632 ballots cast this election, Mr. Lamborn said, only one had to be thrown out because of overvoting in a race. That castaway vote came from an absentee ballot that was counted manually.
Arlington and Fairfax counties also use the Shoup machines. Four other localities in the state use the direct recording electronic technology used by the Shouptronic.
Arlington County registrar Charlotte Cleary said the machines give voters and election officials peace of mind.
"We love these machines; it's the best thing that's happened to Arlington," Ms. Cleary said.
Carol Ann Coryell, a Republican and secretary of the electoral board in Fairfax County, said the machines are foolproof.
Of the 348,078 ballots cast at a precinct using one of the machines, not one of them was rejected, overturned or canceled, Mrs. Coryell said.
The machines do not allow a voter to choose more than one candidate unless the system has been programmed to do so. Pushing a button near the candidate's name turns on a red light. If the voter changes his mind, he can push the button next to another candidate, and the red light reappears next to the new choice.
Voters do have the option of selecting write-in candidates.
No vote is final until the voter pushes a green, matchbox-size button reading "Vote" on the bottom right-hand corner of the machine.
The machines, Mr. Lamborn said, are safe from even the trickiest computer hacker.
Once the polls are closed, an election official flips a switch to turn off each machine and a fuse blows in a small black box that stores the votes so that no more data can enter into its memory. The results of each voting booth then are recorded and printed on a strip of paper that looks like a credit card receipt from a gas station pump.
Election officials at each precinct then add up the numbers and report to the registrar, who signs a sheet certifying the locality's results.
The registrar then types the results into a computer, sending them to the state Election Board.
Registrars say the machines are more expensive than punch-card or lever machines.
"Most places use antiquated systems, and the reason is cost … people don't want to put money into it," Ms. Cleary said.
Mr. Lamborn noted that communities "get what they pay for" and often are willing to sacrifice the integrity and accuracy of an election for frugality.
Maryland State Board of Elections Administrator Linda Lamone said few votes were disqualified in her state because computer-aided systems in all jurisdictions except Montgomery County reject a ballot if too many candidates are marked in a race. The computer-aided systems also allow voters to correct the ballot immediately.
Montgomery County is one of the wealthiest jurisdictions in Maryland.
Margie Hyslop contributed to this article.

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