Statewide voting system selected

Published 12:06 pm Tuesday, August 5, 2003

By Staff
LANSING -- Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land Monday announced that Michigan is adopting an optical scan voting system that injects much-needed convenience and consistency into the election process.
This progressive system lets precincts do away with outmoded voting methods such as punch cards, paper ballots and lever machines. The result is a uniform voting experience for all state residents and greater ease for election workers.
The state will pay for the equipment through its anticipated share of federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) funds. More than 65 percent of Michigan's 5,305 precincts already employ optical scan systems. The remaining 1,829 precincts will adopt the method. Optical scan is one of five different voting methods used throughout the United States. All currently are used in Michigan -- sometimes within the same county. Therefore, voters moving to a new jurisdiction are often forced to learn a new system.
With optical scan, which Dowagiac has, voters indicate their ballot choices on a paper form by marking the designated areas with a pen or pencil.
Michigan will employ "precinct-based" tabulation technology, in which voters remove the ballot from a "secrecy sleeve" and feed it into a tabulator. This machine optically scans the ballot and electronically records the votes in its memory. The paper ballot is then channeled into a storage bin where it remains until the polls close.
Advantages of the system include:
The Department of State will seek bids from qualified vendors later this month. Qualified vendors are expected to be identified by November.
All jurisdictions in each county must use the same equipment.
As a group, the county, city and township clerks will determine the vendor for their county. The vendor must be selected from the state's list of qualified suppliers.
Jurisdictions now using central count punch-card systems, lever machines or paper ballots will be the first to receive optical scan equipment.
The state's goal is to give these jurisdictions the ability to have this technology ready for use by the August and November 2004 statewide elections if they choose.
Land selected the optical scan system after considering the extensive research of state election experts and input from the Advisory Committee. Public Act 91 of 2002 requires the acquisition of a uniform voting method once federal funds are made available and appropriated by the Legislature. The funds were appropriated under Public Act 39 of 2003.