New system to enhance voting throughout Champaign county

By Danielle Gaines

Every vote in Champaign county will count in the 2006 primary election. The city purchased a new voting system that detects ballots that have been filled out improperly. Voters will now be able to correct their mistakes.

The city purchased the new voting equipment in response to the Help America Vote Act of 2002. The Act required all jurisdictions to replace existing ballot systems with a system that will detect errors, said Mark Shelden, Champaign County Clerk.

“It is a very user-friendly system in which the voters will fill in circles just like taking a standardized test,” Shelden said.

In the new voting process, voters will fill out a ballot that an election teller scans into a central machine. The scanning machine will reject any ballots in which two candidates have been marked for one position.

Voting will become easier for citizens with disabilities as well. Blind residents will be able to vote using the same ballot by inserting it into a touch screen device with headphones. Quadriplegics can vote using a “sip and puff” system. In the “sip and puff” system, a voter either sucks in or blows into a tube to indicate their vote. Other citizens with limited physical ability may be able to use touch screens to vote.

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    “Especially in this community, we are open and accommodating to all people,” Shelden said. “This is one more way to make sure their voice is heard.”

    An additional advantage to the new system is that election results will be available earlier on election nights. Shelden expects that full results will be available by 10:00 p.m.

    The voting system will be installed at all 97 county polling places for the March elections. Approximately 54,000 Champaign County voters are expected cast ballots in March’s election, Shelden said.

    The final funding and contract agreement for the voting system will be voted on at the City Board meeting on Thursday.