Manatee eyes new high-tech voting gear

skennedy@bradenton.comJanuary 28, 2014 

MANATEE -- Sleek, high-tech new voting machines took center stage Monday as Manatee County officials considered buying upgraded elections equipment.

Among the new items Manatee Elections Chief Mike Bennett viewed were various scanners and high-speed ballot counters, one of which processes up to 400 ballots a minute, according to Gene Seets, regional sales manager for Election Systems & Software, headquartered in Omaha, Neb.

The company is one of two bidding to supply the county with new voting equipment.

The other firm, Dominion Voting of Denver, will demonstrate its equipment later this week, county officials said Monday.

The voting machines are designed to be user-friendly, and produce a paper trail as well as digital results, in the event of voting disputes, said Seets.

One machine, called the AutoMark, was designed especially to accommodate voters with disabilities, such as the blind or people with physical handicaps, he said.

In the last year and a half, 16 Florida counties have bought the AutoMark, he said.

The company's newest offering is a device that is particularly handy for early voting, which is becoming increasingly popular, along with absentee balloting, said Seets.

"We're trying to give our voters something that won't be obsolete in six years," he said. "We're interested in giving a much better experience for voters."

Asked what his timeline might be, Bennett replied: "We've got our own timelines and deadlines."

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.

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