LONG BEACH - On Thursday, Oct. 30, residents of the Peninsula had an opportunity try out a new touch-screen voting machine at Long Beach City Hall. This touch-screen system, or one like it, might be the future of voting in the state of Washington.

Because of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA), Pacific County is required to have at least one touch-screen voting station at all precinct locations and must remove all punch-card voting machines by the Nov. 2004 election.

States have the opportunity to replace the old machines with either the touch-screen system or an optical scan system which requires voters to fill in the appropriate circles on the ballot. This demonstration was the public's opportunity to view the touch-screen and give feedback.

The need for the computer voting equipment focuses on three different groups: the elections staff - making it at easy as possible to manage equipment and prepare for the election; poll workers - tend to be older, not too comfortable with new technology; the voter - or the public.

On election day; once the voter has signed in and displayed the proper identification, a poll worker with a smart card, a electronic key to start the voting system, escorts the voter to a booth. The smartcard is entered into the system, and the machine is ready to record a vote. The poll worker then walks away to leave the voter with their ballot.

Similar to an automated teller machine at a bank, the voting machine walks the user through a series of screens where the they are asked to choose a selection. About the size of a lap-top computer, the touch screen device weighs approximately 8 pounds and cost nearly $3,000. Bryan Finney of Advanced Voting Solutions, the company that built the voting machine on display called the WinVote, demonstrated the device.

"The voter is given a list of candidates in a given race. All the voter needs to do to select a candidate is touch the name as it appears on the screen," said Finney

In the example election for this demonstration, the voter is asked to vote for Robin Hood (R), Friar Tuck (D) or Little John (I). Voters go through the entire ballot and vote for each position as well as any measures.

The voter can at any time go back and change their vote by touching a box on the screen marked "back." When the voter reaches the end of the ballot, they have the opportunity to make any final changes before it is submitted. When voters reach the end of the ballot, they are asked to make any changes before dropping the ballot in the virtual ballot box by touching the box on the screen marked "finished."

The voting machines are light-weight, easy to carry and can transmit tallied votes to the auditors office in the blink of an eye. Since the computer does all the counting at light speed, the days of waiting for hours after the polls close to announce a winner are over. Finney said that if all voting was done by this touch-screen voting equipment, the results of a major election could be tallied in seconds.

Pacific County Auditor Pat Gardner said the state is thinking about replacing all voting booths with the new equipment, but at this time it is not in the budget.

Election results

Polls in Tuesday's general Election closed at 8 p.m., after the Observer was printed. For election results, please call our office at 642-8181, visit us online at www.chinookobserver.info, or look at the county website: http://www.co.pacific.wa.us/

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