State to use touchscreen, optical scan machines

The county where you live will determine the type of voting machine you use when casting a ballot on Nov. 2. The State of Florida has certified two kinds of voting machines for the general election.

The touchscreen electronic voting machine, Direct Recording Electronic, is like an ATM. Voters touch the screen and DRE guides the voter through the voting process. The machine then prompts voters two or three times to make sure their vote is the right one. When voting is complete, the machine saves the information.

But some critics have voiced concerns about lost votes and the inability to recount votes. This criticism comes during a heated election season, and in light of Florida’s voting-and-recount controversy that occurred during the 2000 presidential election.

Alia Faraj, a spokeswoman for the secretary of state, said DRE is the system used by the majority of Florida voters.

“Fifteen Florida counties use the touchscreen system. That makes up the majority of Florida voters,” Faraj explained. “The counties chose to purchase these machines because it met their needs. Miami-Dade County uses the system because it is easier to use as opposed to the optical scan.”

The optical scan is based on modern computer technology.

Voters mark their choices on the ballots and insert them into machines. The ballots are then scanned, counted and stored within seconds. Some critics are concerned with votes being changed if there is a re-count.

Ion Sancho, the Leon County supervisor of elections, said optical scan is the system of choice for most of Florida.

“Fifty-two counties use optical scan. Leon County has used the system since 1992,” Sancho said.

“At that time, the optical scan was the state of the art system available. It helped to set the current state standard.”

According to literature provided by the secretary of state’s office, both machines should minimize “undervotes.”

“Undervotes occur when voters exercise the right to withhold their vote. They are not mistakes, but choices,” Faraj said.

Deon Garrick, a 33-year-old resident of Palm Beach County, said she has used both voting systems.

“They were easy to use. I had no problem using the machine, and I feel like my vote will count,” Garrick said.

The secretary of state’s office is taking steps to reassure the public that their votes will count.

Officials are holding logistic and accuracy testing around the state, as required by state law.

The procedures are designed to make sure that the machine setup, installation, security and accuracy all meet strict standards.

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