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9/19/2008
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North Carolina To Get Electric Ballot Scanners

Poll workers scan the bar code on the voter's authorization form and the bar code on the paper ballot to ensure accuracy.

CDW Government will scan North Carolina ballots to ensure that voters receive the proper ballots for the November presidential election, the company said recently.

The state tested ballot scanning in nine counties during North Carolina's presidential primaries in May. Voters record their picks by directly marking ballots, but North Carolina distributes more than 100 different ballots, which can create confusion for poll workers. Board of Elections workers tested handheld bar-code scanners and PDAs to improve distribution accuracy.

The state chose Symbol P460 wireless bar-code scanners from Motorola. The scanners have a pistol grip. They are frequently used for inventory management. CDW-G and Motorola decided to adapt the scanners for ballot distribution.

Poll workers scan the bar code on the voter's authorization form and the bar code on the paper ballot to ensure accuracy. Error messages, confirmations, and tones tell poll workers whether the bar codes match.

"With CDW-G's expert advice and Motorola's leading technology, North Carolina can ensure that each voter receives the right ballot," Marc Burris, IT director at the North Carolina State Board of Elections, said in a statement. "Not only is the scanner solution extremely easy to use, but it could save our North Carolina election jurisdictions the cost of re-running an election due to ballot distribution errors. Based upon the projected cost avoidance and the overwhelming success of the pilot program, we made the decision to expand the program statewide this fall."

The state will use the scanners in all 2,751 North Carolina precincts.

"With tens or even hundreds of different ballot styles needed in every election, human error in ballot distribution is possible, but it is not inevitable," said Jim Grass, senior director of state and local sales at CDW-G. "The right technology, coupled with the state's methodical process at the precincts, makes ballot distribution as simple and accurate as point and click. Most importantly, it strengthens citizens' confidence in the voting process."

The devices feature programmable architecture for developing custom applications. That means they can be used to track state-owned equipment when they are not being used for elections.

Kevin DeSpain, Motorola's director of sales, mobile computing, and applications, said the P460 is designed to reduce user fatigue.

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