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Official: New Voting System Means Counts Are Slower, More Secure

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Aired 4/19/09

California Secretary of State's decision to pull the plug on most screen voting machines is forcing San Diego to resort to a vote counting technology that is slow and cumbersome. KPBS reporter Alison St John has more. 

Instead of using touch screen voting machines, voters will have their paper ballots counted by optical scanners in 2008.

Kim Alexander is President of the California Voter Foundation. She explains voters will have to wait longer for election results using optical scanners than they did in the days of the unreliable punch card ballots.

Alexander: We've used computers to count ballots for over 40 years in California , but with a punch card you'd take a stack of cards and put them inside the counter and they would zip through. With the optical scan machines, you've got to feed them through one at a time so it takes longer.

Some California counties are faced with big bills to buy more optical scanners.

But San Diego has a contract with Diebold that requires the company to provide alternatives if its touch screens are decertified.

County Registrar Deborah Seiler says the County will use the scanners Diebold provided at polling places last June.

Seiler: Our strategy is to put a lot of scanners on, granted they are not fast but we would have a lot of them.

However, because of the new conditions set by the secretary of state, the scanners will remain in the Registrar's office, and poll workers will bring the ballots in to be counted.

That may also cause even longer delays.

Nicole Winger of the Secretary of State's office says it's worth it to restore voter confidence.

Winger: Americans like Speed but Americans also like democracy.

Alison St John KPBS News.

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