Local News

Touch-Screen Concerns Prompt Petition To Track Votes On Paper

Posted July 14, 2004

— Almost every state has experienced problems with voting.

In the 2000 general election, thousands of votes cast in North Carolina were never officially recorded because of a number of issues. Some groups worry about the integrity of voting in the Tar Heel State.

First, there were hanging chads. Then, last week, Florida found new touch-screen voting machines were not reliable. The machines have also raised security questions nationwide.

"With North Carolina becoming a closer race, we could end up becoming a Florida fiasco on Nov. 2 if we do not leave ourselves a way out, a plan B," said Warren Murphy of Common Cause of North Carolina.

More than 10,000 North Carolinians who signed a petition want a backup plan, too. They want the state to require individual ballot printouts from computerized machines.

As an alternative, touch-screen opponents like the optical scan because if there was ever a need for a recount, they actually have a hard copy of each ballot.

Forty North Carolina counties use touch screens. Millions of votes have been cast on the 7,300 machines since 1988. The

state Board of Elections

says there have been no major problems with the machines, known as DREs.

"History does not cause us to fear DREs. We understand the ongoing debate. We are looking and listening to see what happens to this new technology," said Don Wright, general counsel for the state Board of Elections.

Officials will be looking at Nevada -- the first state to try verification printouts in September.

Some state lawmakers are calling for a study to deal with the complex issues of touch-screen machines. They hope to have a proposal next year.

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