Letter to the Editor

Voting equipment promises speedier, easier elections

Thursday, December 18, 2003

If you're looking for another example of how national events have local effects, you need look no farther than the front page of today's edition.

We all chuckled when we saw the one Florida election worker straining to look at a punch ballot, trying to determine whether he was looking at a "swinging" or a "hanging" chad.

We should have been more sober to realize that voting is the heart of the system of government that makes our blessed lifestyle possible.

One result of the Florida debacle was the Supreme Court decision which made George W. Bush president.

Another was the Help America Vote Act, which will change the way we cast our votes at next May's primary election. County Clerk Pauletta Gerver is understandably excited about the prospect of implementing electronic voting in Red Willow County.

Our county is one of the largest in the state to still be using paper ballots and manual counting. We were all ready to spend thousands of dollars to purchase voting machines when Gerver got a call from the Nebraska Secretary of State's office, saying we should delay the purchase until the federal money became available.

Will it be hard for voters to adapt?

It shouldn't be, especially for anyone who has taken a standardized test meant to be read by an electronic scanner. Such forms, requiring a blackened oval, have been in use for a half-century or more.

It should also drastically reduce the number of ballots that have to be thrown out because of improper voting. If the scanner sees something wrong with the ballot, it instantly gives the voter the chance to remedy the mistake.

The new system will greatly speed the counting and processing that takes place after each election. Instead of tediously sifting through each paper ballot, election workers will be able to load the data into a computer electronically for an instant count, broken down by precincts, if necessary.

All of us have had our run-ins with technology, and it's easy to cuss computers and slap an errant monitor on the side in frustration.

But if the county's new election equipment performs as advertised, voters, officials -- and reporters and editors who have to disseminate the results -- will wonder how we ever got along without it.

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