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Published: Monday, 10/17/2005

Board reaches out for touch-screens

BY CLYDE HUGHES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

New touch-screen voting machines will bring the latest computer technology to Lucas County residents in November, but there's concern whether people will be able to use the machines properly and with confidence.

Nationwide, concerns have come up in minority communities about the machines and how certain people will respond to them. Some have suggested that some technophobes will be afraid of the new technology, and that will keep them away from the polls.

Others, though, have scoffed at the notion and said the screens are as easy to use as most automatic teller machines and, in fact, will be much easier to read and use to vote than the old punch-card machines that haunted the 2000 Florida elections.

Jill Kelly, director of the Lucas County elections board, said the impediment the new touch-screen machines will cause - either real or imagined - can be resolved through familiarity and education.

It's why the board is planning an aggressive education campaign to get Lucas County voters, and minorities in particular, comfortable with the machines through demonstrations across the county.

Ms. Kelly said her efforts in the minority community are the result of election judges in minority precincts who have received complaints about voters having difficulties casting their ballots. The problem is acute with provisional balloting.

"They told us that some voters feel left out," Ms. Kelly said. "We don't want any voter to feel left out."

Ms. Kelly said she has heard positive comments from those taking the demonstrations at senior citizen centers so far. As part of the board's Urban Voter Outreach, the board will set up demonstrations at churches and centers that have large minority populations.

Michael Badik, the election board's assistant director, believes people will find the machines user-friendly and that they can accommodate users with a variety of disabilities.

The Urban Voter Outreach effort is part of the larger push by the elections board to de-mystify the new touch-screen machines. The board will hold a Lucas County Votes Day on Saturday. The new voting machines will be set up from noon to 4 p.m. at Westfield Shoppingtown Franklin Park, 5001 Monroe St.; the main Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, 325 North Michigan St., and Kroger stores at 3301 Navarre Ave. in Oregon and 4366 Suder Ave.

An Urban Voter Outreach demonstration was held at Indiana Missionary Baptist Church yesterday and another one will be held at the J. Frank Troy Senior Center, 1235 Division St., today from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.

Others places for the demonstrations include the following locations:

  • Tomorrow at Mayores Senior Center, 1 Aurora Gonzalez Dr., from 8:30 to 10 a.m.

  • Wednesday at First Church of God, 3016 Collingwood, Blvd., from 6 to 8:30 p.m.

  • Wednesday at Christian Temple Baptist Church, 1201 Blum St., from 7 to 8 p.m.

  • Thursday at Pelham Manor Center, 2700 Pelham Rd., from 7 to 8 p.m.

  • Friday at East Toledo Family Center, 1020 Varland Ave., from 10 a.m. to noon.

  • Sunday at Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church, 1401 Hoag St., from 10 to 11 a.m.

  • Sunday at Bethlehem Baptist Church, 1430 West Bancroft St., from 12:15 to 1:30 p.m.

  • Oct. 26, at Friendship Baptist Church, 5301 Nebraska Ave., from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.

  • Oct. 29 at Mott Branch Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, 1085 Dorr St., from noon to 4 p.m., co-sponsored by the Greater Toledo Urban League Young Professionals, Committee of the Whole for the Quality of Life in the Black Community, and WJUC-FM.

  • Oct. 30 at Cornerstone Church, 1520 Reynolds Rd., in Maumee, from 9 to 11:30 a.m.

  • Oct. 30 at St. Martin de Porres Catholic Church, 1119 West Bancroft St., 12:15 to 1:30 p.m.

    Contact Clyde Hughes at: chughes@theblade.com or 419-724-6095.



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