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Commissioner asks Shelby County to begin voting machine switch
[June 26, 2009]

Commissioner asks Shelby County to begin voting machine switch

Jun 26, 2009 (The Commercial Appeal - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Shelby County Commissioner Steve Mulroy urged members of the county election commission Thursday to begin replacing electronic voting machines with optical scanner machines as mandated by state law.

Mulroy said he would work hard to obtain county money to cover costs associated with the transition, which he said will improve voter confidence.

A new state law requires all counties to start using optical scanner voting machines by the November 2010 election. The mandate is tough for the election commission, which owns relatively new touch-screen voting machines.

Mulroy gave commissioners a pile of academic studies that declare the optical scanning systems are the best.

"Optical scanning is the only system where the voter can have confidence that the vote totals are being tallied correctly free from error, free from fraud," he said in an interview.

Voters using optical scanning systems mark bubbles on a paper ballot with a pen or pencil. The ballots are fed into a machine that reads them.

Mulroy believes the county can receive outside grant money to pay for the new machines, and said he'd push to gain extra county money to cover other costs. He said he didn't know how much it would cost to replace the machines.

Advocates for optical scanner systems say that they're less prone to develop security breaches and errors than electronic machines, in large part because they create a verifiable record that's independent of the computer record.

Bill Giannini, the Republican chairman of the county election commission, prefers the electronic machines, but says the commission has no choice but to follow the law.

Commissioner Myra C. Stiles, a Democrat, said she'd prefer to keep the electronic machines, too, but agreed the county must change.

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