Touch Screen Machines for Disabled Voters Arrive in Leon County

Leon County is now officially meeting a federal mandate: the Help America Vote Act. After months of controversy, the machines accessible to voters with disabilities are finally here.

The voting machine controversy started at the beginning of the year when Leon County failed to meet HAVA requirements.

As a result, the county had to return more than a half million in HAVA grant dollars, and then the three state certified companies refused to sell machines to Leon County, but all that's history now as the county gears up for the fall elections with the new machines.

After six months of debate the 125 touch screen voting machines accessible to voters with disabilities sit in the Leon County supervisor of election’s warehouse.

Ion Sancho, Leon County Supervisor of Elections, said, "We had hoped we'd get these machines earlier, but of course events intervened, but we do have the machines now. The money for the federal grant is in the state budget."

Sam Atwood is glad to see the county is finally compliant with the Help America Vote Act. But as a visually impaired voter, he has his concerns about the new touch screen machines.

Sam Atwood said, "It doesn't matter if I can cast my own vote if I don't know the vote has been cast right. There's no way to check it. I just think that's crazy. I don't think there can be a compromise between secure machines and accessible machines. They have to be both."

Sancho shares that same concern. He's long debated the importance of a paper trail which the touch screen machines do not provide. He's reminding voters that the optical scan system is still available, giving voters a choice on election day.

Sancho said, "We're going to be pushing all of the traditional methods that we have to allow citizens to ensure their vote will be tabulated and they can participate in the fall election cycle."

Sancho says in the 2004 election, 40 percent of Leon County voters cast their ballot either by early voting or by mail.

He has spoken to supervisors of elections across the country. Some have told him that with blended systems like Leon County has now, most voters are sticking with what they already know and are not using the touch screens.