Tuesday, October 15, 2002

Butler Co. takes steps to update voting system

By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

HAMILTON - In anticipation of new federal election legislation, Butler County officials have begun taking steps to switch the county's voting system from punch cards to a touch-screen model.

In the next few months, Congress is expected to approve a bill that would require counties with punch-card or lever voting systems to switch to touch screens or optical scanning mechanisms for voting. It's an attempt to prevent a recurrence of the voter confusion the punch-card method caused in parts of Florida in the 2000 presidential election.

The federal government would pay for about 95 percent of the total cost.

Monday, the Butler County commissioners authorized Robert Mosketti, director of the Butler County Board of Elections, to advertise for bids from private companies to buy and install a touch-screen voting system for the county's 289 precincts and a scanning system for absentee ballots.

The cost would be $6 million to $8 million. The bids would specify that the county would not purchase the new system without the commitment of federal funding.

Mr. Mosketti said that having a company under contract before the legislation becomes law would enable Butler to beat the horde of counties throughout the nation that will be trying to switch voting systems after the voting legislation becomes law.

"All these companies are going to be inundated with requests," he said. "I'd rather be at the front of the line than have to wait."

E-mail skemme@enquirer.com

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