Nixing touch screens wasn't money related

Posted: Friday, June 22, 2007

There were several factual errors in Pat Forgey's article "$1.7 million voting system gets little use."

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First and foremost, the decision to not use the touch-screen voting units in the special election was not made in an attempt to save money, although cost savings were a positive byproduct of the decision. The Division of Elections held the special election simultaneously with the city of Anchorage's election as required by the Legislature in House Bill 4002. The division worked with Anchorage to organize a system that would minimize voter and election-worker confusion. Because separate ballots cannot be loaded and separate results cannot be recorded on a single touch-screen unit for elections being held simultaneously, the decision was made not to use the units to avoid the confusion of having a touch screen and optical scan available for the state election and only the optical scan available for the municipal election.

Having been misrepresented and misquoted by the media myself, it is my hope that the same occurred in Rep. Mike Doogan's case when the article indicated "Doogan said Alaska should stand up to the Feds and not use the touch screens at all." At least one voting unit per polling place that is accessible to the blind and disabled is required by federal law for elections where a federal race appears on the ballot. The division will continue to follow the law. To do otherwise would not only be irresponsible, but illegal.

The article also stated that Doogan objected to the use of the touch screens because "the model purchased by the state provides no paper trail that can be used to check whether votes were cast and tallied appropriately."

That could not be further from the truth. The division purchased 505 voting units - all equipped with a paper trail allowing for a private, independent and verifiable ballot as required by state law. Furthermore, the division conducts a hand count of all ballots (paper ballots and the paper receipt from the touch screens) cast in one randomly selected precinct in each House district to ensure that tallies are accurate. This is in addition to the review of election counts and materials from all polling places statewide by the bipartisan State Review Board.

To learn more about Alaska's election process, visit the division's Web site at

Whitney Brewster

Director, Division of Elections


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