Electronic Ballot System to Cost State $54 Million
Williams, Dave, The Florida Times Union
Byline: Dave Williams, Times-Union staff writer
ATLANTA -- The state of Georgia signed off yesterday on the largest voting-equipment contract in U.S. history, a major step toward installing the nation's first statewide electronic balloting system by November's elections.
For $54 million, Diebold Election Systems will provide more than 19,000 high-tech voting machines, featuring touch screens, to Georgia's 2,853 precincts. Another 400 optical-scan machines will be used to count absentee ballots.
The state could get its money back from the federal government if Congress approves pending legislation providing funds to the states for voting-reform projects.
The General Assembly approved the massive investment during the recently concluded legislative session, after Secretary of State Cathy Cox argued that the storm of controversy that hit Florida after the 2000 presidential election should serve as a "wake-up call'' for Georgia and other states.
Uncertainty over the narrow margin separating Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore, complicated by the hodgepodge of voting systems in use in Florida, delayed the results for more than a month and threw the election to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Research by Cox's office later revealed that 94,000 ballots in Georgia showed no choice for president, more than in Florida and nearly double the national average.
"We took the events of the 2000 presidential election as a warning, but also as a catalyst for change,'' Cox said yesterday during a news conference. "The state of Georgia has become a national leader in election reform. …