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After today, Pasco can wave goodbye to touch screen voting

If you're voting today, consider yourself privy to a small piece of Pasco election history.

Today marks the last day of touch screen voting.

Yes, this will be the last time you get to press that bright red flashing "Vote" button on the computerized iVotronic machines, which were rolled out in 2002 to help erase Florida's reputation as an electoral comedy of errors.

In a few months, the county will welcome its third voting system in as many presidential elections: a return to paper ballots.

Except instead of punching holes through the ballots, voters will mark their choices by filling in little ovals, then running the ballots through optical scan machines.

Sure, going back to paper may sound old-fashioned, but it creates a hard copy of each vote — something critics note was lacking from the touch screen machines.

Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley said Pasco voters were happy with the touch screen machines.

"If this (switch to optical scan ballots) will help Florida get out of the limelight and (being the) butt of jokes about elections, it could help the election run smoothly," he said.

Corley's predecessor, Kurt Browning, picked the iVotronics for Pasco after the 2000 election fiasco. "Undervote" and "overvote" had become a part of the state lingo thanks to the punch card ballots, as some of the little paper holes didn't punch out right, making it hard to determine who the voter actually picked.

The iVotronics, which Pasco bought for $4.6-million, promised a solution to that: The computer wouldn't let voters pick more than one candidate per office. And it warned voters if they were about to cast a ballot that didn't pick anyone.

All of the results were tabulated electronically, and a recount could be done at the press of a button.

But there was no paper trail. Critics said that left no way of reconstructing the vote tally if something went awry.

So the Legislature mandated the switch to optical scan machines by July.

A $27-million allotment from the federal government will pay for the statewide change in voting systems.

About $350,000 in county funds will pay for extra machines in case some of them aren't working properly, and cover the costs of extras, like tiny humidity control packs to make sure your vote doesn't get ruined.

And what will become of the iVotronic machines?

They'll be sent back to Browning, who is now Florida secretary of state. He will resell the machines from Pasco and 14 other counties. The proceeds will go to counties that still owe money on their touch screen machines.

Camille C. Spencer can be reached at cspencer@sptimes.com or (727)

869-6229.

>>Cast your vote

Polling sites

Today is election day for this year's municipal races. Each city will have just one polling place:

• Dade City: First Baptist Church, 37511 Church Ave.

• New Port Richey: New Port Richey Recreation Center, 6630 Van Buren St.

• Port Richey: Knights of Columbus Hall, 5850 K of C Drive.

• Zephyrhills: Alice Hall Community Center, 38116 Fifth Ave.

Questions? Call the Supervisor of Elections Office toll-free at 1-800-851-8754.

After today, Pasco can wave goodbye to touch screen voting 04/07/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 9, 2008 2:03pm]
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