Despite national concerns, county stands behind its voting machines

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:13

    SUSSEX COUNTY-Electronic voting machines in Sussex County's polling places could easily be adapted to include a paper trail, if required by law, officials say. The county's nearly four-year-old voting machines are working well and meeting state and federal codes, said Joann Williams, director of the Sussex County Board of Elections. And while concerns are being debated nationally over the integrity of electronic voting, Williams said the county is prepared to adapt its voting equipment to meet any new laws, including the addition of a printed receipt for each voter. "Our machines are certified by the state," Williams said, adding that if new laws require additional safeguards, "we'll put add-on printers." Elections Systems & Software Inc, the company that makes the iVotronic Touch Screen voting machines used by Sussex County, has prototypes of printer add-on equipment that may be required if U.S. House and Senate bills pass. New Jersey Congressman Rush Holt has introduced H.B. 2239, the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act, and Nevada Sen. John Ensign has introduced S. B. 2437, the Voting Integrity and Verification Act. Both bills address growing concerns over potential security breaches in electronic voting and the inability to have a reliable record to check, in cases where recounts are needed. In the wake of the 2000 presidential election and the problems with ballots in Florida, Sussex County switched from a punch card voting system to electronic voting machines in time for the 2001 fall general election, WilNow, however, officials are realizing the electronic systems have no way to show that votes were counted properly. Other concerns are that a computerized voting tally can be tampered with. Williams said there have been no serious problems in Sussex County. She remains cautious, however. "You never know what problems are going to come up," she said. "In any system, one problem can throw everything off. Anything can pop up with any election." Elections Systems & Software says the machines used by Sussex County voters are safe and guard against tampering. "We're confident in the system," said Meghan McCormick, spokesman for ES&S. McCormick said there is no cost estimate on how much a paper trail add-on would cost the county. "That would depend on whether you wanted something that the voters could take with them, or another type of paper verification," McCormick said. She said the company's prototype is available for any county to use as a test of the system. Williams said one benefit of the electronic voting system is the remote sites where some of the votes are tallied before they come into the Board of Elections main office. Eight regional sites throughout the county help to tally some of the votes before they are fed electronically to the board office. The electronic voting machines' touch screens are seen as the easiest to use, especially by the elderly and handicapped, according to ES&S. Williams said Sussex County voters are now used to the touch screens and have adapted well to the new system.