by CHLOE WHITE
New digital voting machines tested to ensure they won't push balloters' buttons
Testing began Monday after the delivery of 500 new voting machines, which will replace the 19-year-old machines used in past elections in Knox County.
The eSlate voting system by Hart InterCivic involves the latest electronic voting technology available, said administrator of elections Greg Mackay.
"The machines are all-digital," Mackay said. "But they're so easy to use that you don't have to know anything about computers to work them."
Each 7-pound machine features a large wheel to navigate the electronic screen and an oversized button to mark choices. This technology is better than touch-screen technology, which can be inaccurate at times, said Hart Vice President Phillip Braithwaite.
"Touch screens can have problems with screen drift or calibration issues," Braithwaite said. "The eSlate machines are 100 percent digitally accurate at all times."
The booth itself weighs 27 pounds and features fold-up legs, which allow for curbside voting if necessary.
The previous Shouptronic voting machines, which were almost 20 years old and used in about 55 elections, featured older, push-button technology and weighed 147 pounds each. The only notable glitches with the machines involved getting results in a timely manner, said Mackay.
Knox County updated the voting technology as part of the Help America Vote Act of 2002, which requires states to update voting systems, including a paper trail, and establish minimum election administration standards.
In addition, the federal act states that every polling place in the nation must have at least one accessible voting booth for disabled voters.
One million dollars in federal funds financed most of the new machines, which are accessible for disabled voters. Each precinct will have one judges ballot counter and one machine equipped with a Disabilities Access Unit, which has a port for headphones so visually impaired voters can have the ballot read to them.
"This technology mainstreams all voters so all voters can vote the same way," Braithwaite said.
Hart said the machines, which cost $2,500 each, will be ready for early voting on July 14 after testing and training classes for more than 600 poll workers.
"This is the most durable, accurate and user-friendly technology available," Mackay said. "We're really excited about it."