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Votes

Reston Residents Test New Voting Machines

Residents of Small Tax District No. 5 arriving at the Reston Community Center Oct. 19 to cast their vote for the center's Board of Governors become among the first in Fairfax County to use a new touch-screen voting machine. Actually two types of machines were previewed this past weekend. The Advanced Voting Solutions, WINvote, was demonstrated at the Reston Community Center, with two machines used for demonstrations and one for the actual voting. In Vienna, the Election Systems and Software, iVotronic system, was demonstrated.

Both types of machines will be piloted during the general election Nov. 5. The WINvote will be used in three polling places: Dogwood, Glade and Hunters Woods. The iVotronic machines will be at the Vienna No. 1, Vienna No. 2 and Vienna No. 4 polling locations.

As for the Reston election, it was an uncontested election after William J. Keefe dropped out of the running, leaving three adult candidates, Frederick W. Greenwald, John Lovaas and Ruth C. Overton, vying for three seats. In addition, two teen-agers, Lorelei Kirchner and Yasmin Shafiq, were seeking the two open student seats.

"Three hundred, thirty-eight ballots were cast," said Denny Kern, executive director of the Reston Community Center. "Small Tax District No. 5 has about 20,000 resident property owners. We've had a higher turnout before."

The vote results will be given to the county Board of Supervisors, who appoint the members of the Board of Governors.

Kern said that while the supervisors can appoint whomever they want, it is typically the top vote getters in the community election.

THE DEMONSTRATIONS were being conducted by the Fairfax County Electoral Board, which is looking to replace its aging Shouptronic-1242 machines, which weigh about 195 pounds each.

"We bought the other machines in 1987. Basically we're running out of parts to repair them," said Richard Magee, electoral board representative. "The others are heavy, break down and have mechanical parts. And they use old technology."

The WINvote machines in Reston were about the size of a laptop computer, weigh about 9 pounds each, and its voting stand also doubles as its storage case, said Kimberlee Shoup-Yeahl, an Advanced Voting Solutions representative.

"They are easier to adapt to election laws. They can be programmed in different languages. They have zoom capability or audio headsets for the visually impaired. They can also be set up curbside," Shoup-Yeahl said. "It's all wireless. There is no paper ballots."

The Advanced Solutions machine has a downloadable database and the results can be sent to the Electoral Board electronically through modems. The machines also provide a paper tape record of the votes by machine and by precinct totals since they are all networked together.

The resulted are stored in four places: the machine's hard drive, a USB drive, the paper tape and every ballot is stored randomly, said Shoup-Yeahl.

The machines have been used in elections in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Mississippi and come November in Virginia and New York City.

"PEOPLE ARE FINDING they're easy to use," Magee said. "Part of the problem is getting people to touch the screen. When you are use to something, it's hard to change."

The WINvote machines display the entire ballot or the print can be enlarged to show parts of the ballot at a time. The voter touches the name of his or her selection, which then turn red. There is also an option to write in a candidate using an alphabetical keypad that appears on the screen. Once the voter has made all of his or her selections, the voter touches the "next" button at the bottom of the screen. A summary page showing all of the voter's choices appears, at which point the voter can go back and change his or her vote or accept the choices and record the vote.

"No more pregnant chads," Shoup-Yeahl said.

During the November election, each machine will have an Electoral Board official nearby to help voters cast their ballots.

Both machines are being tested out before the Electoral Board decides to purchases one of these systems for future elections.