Clallam County scraps punch cards and moves to "digital scan" voting


Peninsula News Network

Clallam County, WA - Put away the punch cards and get out the ink pens, because starting this month it will be a whole new system for Clallam County voting.

Clallam County has continued to use its standard punch card system for voting and resisted the trend to switch over to an optical scan system. That’s actually been a good thing, because its allowed the county to continue with a simple system and avoid the kinds of problems that have plagued elections in counties that switched to optical scan systems.

But the Help America Vote Act of 2002 required that counties across the U.S. get rid of the older punch card or lever voting machines. And Tuesday, Clallam County finally made the switch, approving the purchase of more than $200,000 worth of new “digital” scan voting equipment, with the funding for the new gear coming from the state.

The new system will completely replace the punch cards in favor of a new paper ballot where voters will simply fill in the box with blue or black ink.

The paper ballots will then be digitally scanned as they are tabulated. Auditor Cathy McKeown says that will not only create a backup copy of the ballots, but allow for sophisticated tracking of the ballots through the use of bar codes to preserve ballot security and privacy.

McKeown says the equipment purchased Tuesday also includes three DREs, or digital recording equipment terminals than can be used to train voters on using the new system, and to make it easier for voters with disabilities to independently cast ballots. However, the change doesn’t mean an end to the county’s popular vote-by-mail system. In fact, McKeown says outside of using a pen to mark the ballot instead of punching a card, voters won’t see much of a change.

And the system is going into effect right away. McKeown says voters casting ballots for the upcoming school levies in Port Angeles and Forks will use the new digital ballots.



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