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Published: Saturday, 5/8/2004

Governor OKs law requiring paper trail for new vote devices


COLUMBUS - Gov. Bob Taft yesterday signed into law a requirement that new touch-screen voting technology purchased for Ohio must come equipped with paper-backup systems.

The bill, however, waives that requirement for as many as 31 counties, including Lucas, so that they may proceed in time for the Nov. 2 presidential election. The state will pay to retrofit the computerized machines with "voter-verified paper audit trails" by 2006.

State Sen. Teresa Fedor (D., Toledo), the General Assembly's most outspoken proponent of the paper system, plans to ask the Lucas County Board of Elections at its monthly meeting Monday to wait until a paper system is available. No such system has been certified yet in Ohio.

Lucas County has warehoused its outdated lever machines and has operated under a free lease agreement for touch-screen and optical-scan machines with Canton-based Diebold Election Systems in the last three elections with the understanding it eventually would buy Diebold equipment. Waiting until next year probably would require the county to pursue another lease arrangement this year.

The new law, which also raises the pay cap for poll workers and prohibits election board employees from collectively bargaining, gives the 31 counties 30 days to vote on whether they intend to move forward immediately using federal funds.

But Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell's office has requested votes sooner than that, saying time is of the essence if counties are to purchase the machines and retrain poll workers in time for Nov. 2.

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