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Published: Sunday, 8/10/2003

Kaptur tries to ready poll workers


Toledo Congressman Marcy Kaptur praised a group of Lucas County Democratic Party poll workers for their diligent work. But she warned that they would need to be well-trained as the county begins using new electronic touch-screen voting machines.

Miss Kaptur, a Democrat elected to Congress in 1982, spoke to about 200 people at a meeting yesterday morning at a United Auto Workers training center in Arrowhead Park in Maumee.

Lucas County elections officials recently agreed to buy voting machines from Diebold Elections Systems of North Canton, Ohio.

The company will provide touch-screen voting machines and optical-scan tabulators for next month's Toledo primary election, the November general election, and the presidential primary election in March. Diebold also will supply a new generation of touch-screen machines next year that will become the county's permanent voting system.

The new equipment is being purchased as part of the federal Help America Vote Act, passed by Congress and signed into law last year. Miss Kaptur, who voted for the bill, said she is concerned that a federal panel designed to oversee how states implement the legislation has not been organized.

Meanwhile, she said, “the states are barreling ahead'' to test, certify, and install the new machines.

She said a main concern is that the federal government has not sent money to the states to pay for poll-worker training on the new equipment. It was part of the reason she called the meeting.

“We could have a train wreck on our hands,'' Miss Kaptur said. “That's why we're starting a year early, so we get [local training] right.''

Miss Kaptur said she also has concerns about the security of the new voting systems, in part, because there is “no paper trail'' to back up the electronic machines.

Some electronics experts also have raised concerns about the systems' vulnerability to tampering.

Voting-machine industry representatives said those charges are unfounded, because they don't take into consideration all the safeguards put into place by elections officials to see that the machines are free of tampering and elections run smoothly and according to the law.

“I recognize her concerns, “ said Paula Hicks-Hudson, a Democrat who is deputy director of the Lucas County elections board. “The board knows that every voting system has flaws. What we have to do is have booth workers on the ground to do the best they can to make sure things go right.”

Ms. Hicks-Hudson said Lucas County voters would have plenty of opportunity to get familiar with the county's new voting machines before the Sept. 9 primary.

They will be available for hands-on demonstrations at shopping centers, community and senior centers, government offices, and other locations from now until the election.

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