Carroll voters to use new machines in '94 elections

February 09, 1994|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Sun Staff Writer

In elections this year, Carroll County residents will cast their votes on new machines that provide instant precinct results when polls close.

"It will expedite the voting process very nicely," Carroll Election Board Chairman Leo Kuhn told the county commissioners yesterday.

Carroll will be the first county in Maryland to use the latest model of "optical scan" machines, said Marvin L. Meyn, deputy administrator of the State Administrative Board of Election Laws.

Anne Arundel and Howard counties are using an earlier model, he said.

Carroll officials are contracting with Business Records Corp. in Dallas to lease the Optech III-P Eagle system, election board member Jerry L. Toadvine said.

The county expects to sign a seven-year lease, with the option to buy the system, for $108,250 a year, election board Chief Clerk Rosemary McCloskey said.

The system will be used for the Sept. 13 primary and Nov. 8 general elections.

Officials plan to have education sessions for voters beginning this spring, she said. Officials will demonstrate the new system at shopping centers and schools, and will be available to speak to service groups, churches and other organizations, she said.

The election board needed a new voting system because changes in the county's mainframe computer meant it no longer could handle election tabulations.

The optical scan system will replace the punch-card system in use since 1984. Under the new system, a voter uses a pencil or pen to complete an arrow next to a candidate's name. The voter then inserts the ballot into a counter.

When polls close, an election official presses a button, and the machine prints a precinct total. Totals from each precinct are recorded on computerized "memory packs." Officials from each precinct take the memory packs to elections headquarters to be totaled in a matter of seconds.

Yesterday, election board members met with the commissioners present their operating budget request for fiscal 1995, which begins July 1. The board asked for $402,350, which is $164,270 more than this year.

The county budget office recommended that the request be trimmed to $376,470.

Some of the requested increase was in the category of personnel services. The board wants to hire a permanent employee, a temporary clerk to work during election season and 41 additional judges to work at the polls.

Gary L. Horst, capital budget supervisor, said the budget office recommended that the board be allowed to hire only the temporary clerk. The clerk would work from July 1 to Nov. 30 and be paid $5,670, he said.

Budget officials are not convinced the elections board needs the other employees, Mr. Horst said.

The elections office has the equivalent of five full-time positions and one part-time position, an employee who works two days a week. Mrs. McCloskey has requested the equivalent of six full-time positions. The additional job would cost about $10,000, Mr. Horst said.

Mr. Kuhn said the county will need one additional election judge in each of Carroll's 41 precincts to assist voters with the new voting system.

The cost to hire the judges and train them would be about $7,800, Mr. Horst said.

About 500 people are employed during elections as judges and other poll workers.

Carroll has six new precincts this year because of a growing population: two in Manchester, two in Hampstead, one in Westminster and one in Freedom. The election board also asked the commissioners to increase the yearly salary for board members from $2,500 to $3,000. The increase would not be effective until June 1995, when the next board takes office.

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