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Published: Tuesday, 2/10/2004

3 voting-machine makers sign contracts with Ohio

BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU

COLUMBUS - Three companies have signed contracts with Ohio to supply electronic voting machines to bring the state into compliance with the federal Help America Vote Act.

Congress has appropriated $133 million to the state for the upgrade, a reaction to the troubles experienced with punch-card ballots during the 2000 presidential election in Florida.

Canton-based Diebold Election Systems will supply touch-screen voting machines at $2,965 each and optical-scan machines at $4,127 each. The optical scan devices use paper ballots that are read electronically and are required to provide a precinct-count audit trail.

Election Systems and Software signed a contract with the state for $2,897 and $5,499 each respectively. Maximus/Hart Intercivic will sell only touch-screen machines at $2,998 each.

Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell has estimated that at least three touch-screen machines or one precinct-count optical scan device will be needed at each of the state s 11,434 precincts. His office said the per-machine prices, which include software and warranty, are the best negotiated by any state.

California-based Sequoia Voting Systems went to court to force itself back onto the vendor menu after it failed to qualify, but it signed no contracts after it was selected by just four of Ohio s 88 counties.

The three successful vendors continue to work to implement security upgrades demanded by Mr. Blackwell s office and will then have to win federal certification for the modified machines.

Lucas County was one of a handful of counties to miss last month s deadline to select vendors after its board of elections deadlocked.



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