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[November 09, 2008]
Company: Access codes do not identify voters
Nov 09, 2008 (The Paducah Sun - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
The E-Slate voting machines McCracken County uses require an access code printed out for each voter, but the numbers cannot link individual ballots to individual voters, according to the manufacturer, retailer and local election officials.
The county bought the machines in 2005 and has used them in primary and general elections the past three years, County Clerk Jeff Jerrell said. The federal Help America Vote Act of 2002 mandated the use of voting machines that helped people with disabilities vote, and state election officials certified the E-Slate, Jerrell said.
"They were mandated to us," he said. "We basically had no choice."
The machines, for example, have headphones for the vision impaired and an attachment that paralyzed voters can puff air into to indicate their choices.
Neither Jerrell nor board of elections member Jimmie Morphew said they're aware of any complaints or formal concerns raised about the access codes linking voters to ballots. Morphew said a couple of voters in Lone Oak couldn't find the question about whether to dissolve the city Tuesday, but only because they didn't scroll far enough through the ballot.
Pete Lichtenheld, director of operations for E-Slate manufacturer Hart InterCivic, said the machines are designed for a variety of voting situations, and up to 12 can be used in a single polling place. When the voter signs in, a poll worker identifies which ballot the voter needs -- some precincts include voters both inside and outside the city, for example -- and the machine will print a random access code. That code will bring up the correct ballot on the voting machine while assuring each user votes only once, he said.
The machine that prints the code knows only which ballot the voter needs, but not any other information about the voter, he said. The codes allow poll officials to identify what happens when fewer people vote than check in, which Lichtenheld said is common, because the machines track how many of the codes are printed, how many are entered into the voting machines, and if any of the ballots are left uncompleted.
McCracken County uses the E-Slates as well as the ELECTronic 1242. The county has 56 E-Slates, one for each of its 54 precincts, one for in-person absentee voting at the clerk's office, and a spare, Jerrell said.
C.D. Bradley cam be contacted at 575-8617.
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