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O.C.'s Voting Trial a Hit

The county's new electronic devices were tried out at malls and city halls. Election officials are confident that their use Tuesday will go smoothly.

March 01, 2004|Stanley Allison | Times Staff Writer

Based on the successful introduction of electronic voting machines at shopping malls and city halls, Orange County election officials say they are confident that the countywide use of the new devices will go without a hitch Tuesday.

The 9,000 machines will replace punch card ballots throughout the county.

The devices were used in early balloting Feb. 3-22 at the Shops at Mission Viejo, Brea Mall, Buena Park Mall, Irvine Spectrum, MainPlace/Santa Ana and Westminster Mall.

Others were used at city halls in Anaheim, Costa Mesa, Garden Grove, Irvine, Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano, as well as at the county Hall of Administration and the Registrar of Voters office in Santa Ana.

Of the 4,735 votes cast on those machines, the most -- 756 -- were at the Mission Viejo mall.

"We're happy with the fact that people tried it out, that people voted, and that numerous people were able to at least look at the system," said Brett Rowley, legislative analyst for the Orange County registrar of voters.

It's called a direct record electronic voting system, but for many of the people who used it, it was simply fun and easy, Rowley said.

"I think things will go as expected" Tuesday, he added. "Smoothly."

Voting officials decided to introduce the devices at shopping malls because of the use they were likely to get, Rowley said.

Use of the machines during early voting achieved the goal of exposing Orange County voters to the new devices, officials said.

The eSlate devices, about the size of a laptop computer, offer voters options in five languages -- English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Korean and Chinese.

After signing the roster as usual, voters on Tuesday will be given an access code by poll workers.

After selecting a language, voters enter the access code and the ballot appears on the screen.

The voter scrolls through the menu of voting options by turning a knob to highlight the choices. After selecting a choice, the voter pushes a button to record the vote.

Rowley said the process takes about five minutes, about the same as voting traditionally.

The idea of the early voting, he said, was to give people who wanted to vote early an option besides the absentee ballot.

It also had the benefit of allowing people to register to vote.

"It was like taking the registrar of voters out to 16 locations in the county," Rowley said. "It worked for many different reasons."

After Tuesday's election, the registrar of voters staff will analyze the results of the program and determine, with the county Board of Supervisors, whether to continue the program, Rowley said.

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