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:
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