Voting goes high-tech with optical system

May 08, 1994|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,Sun Staff Writer

Technology has caught up with the voting booth: Punch cards are out; optical scanning is in.

The new process -- officially called Optech III-P Eagle -- got its first tryout in the county Tuesday when voters went to the polls to elect a new mayor and two council members in Aberdeen and three council members in Havre de Grace.

"It was easy, if not easier than the old way," said Aberdeen voter George Englesson. With the optical system, voters simply connect an arrow with a special pen or pencil next to their choices on a ballot and insert it into a tabulating unit.

"People can use a privacy booth or stand in the middle of the room if they want," said Rita A. Dather, administrator of the Harford County Board of Supervisors of Elections.

Another plus is the speed with which the results are delivered.

In Tuesday's municipal elections, the results were tabulated minutes after the polls closed at 7 p.m.

It took about six minutes in Aberdeen before Charles R. Boutin learned he had ousted incumbent Mayor Ruth Elliott, and before Mary Lou Thompson and DeWayne Curry found out they had been elected to the council.

Havre de Grace's council results were known about 7:14 p.m., Ms. Dather said. The winners were Anna Jones Long, Joseph W. Kochenderfer and Henry J. Schreiber.

The former method of compiling results would have taken up to 1 1/2 hours, a poll worker said.

The optical system, which costs $113,300 a year for the seven-year lease, has been used for several years in Howard and Arundel counties, Ms. Dather said. She added that it is being considered in other subdivisions.

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