Sleek electronic tablets to tally future votes in Manatee

skennedy@bradenton.comJune 13, 2013 

MANATEE -- The next-generation voting system could involve sleek, iPad-style electronic tablets people can use to register their preferences instead of the clunky equipment of today, Manatee's supervisor of elections said Wednesday.

Elections Supervisor Mike Bennett said the latest in voting equipment involves iPad-style tablets designated for use at polling places.

"We're looking at new equipment options today," said Bennett. "We know we need new voting equipment."

Bennett, out of town Wednesday looking at the latest voting equipment, has about $2 million in the budget to spend should he find a high-tech system he thinks would perform well, according to Nick Azzara, county information outreach coordinator.

Another $600,000 is in the county budget for renovating the elections office at 600 301 Blvd., W., Suite 108, Bradenton, Azzara said.

Bennett said many county officials are interested in the latest technological offerings, but it may be awhile before he buys a new system.

"I have a reputation for being cheap," he said, but he also wants to make sure whatever he does buy has been thoroughly vetted.

By closing precincts, he might be able to stretch the life of voting equipment already in use."As long as I can put it off, I will," he said.

Bennett said the electronic tablets would solve space problems at the elections office.

"If we can do it, the physical facility goes from several hundred thousand square feet to one shelf," he said.

Bennett, who succeeded retiring Supervisor Bob Sweat after the November election, has already purchased about $13,000 worth of new "ballot-on-demand" equipment to be used for the first time during early voting for the June 18 special election.

Ballot on demand will eventually permit multiple early voting sites in the county for the first time, Bennett has said.

Last year, long lines formed at the county's sole early voting site before the November general election.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-7031. Follow her on Twitter@sarawrites.

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