North Carolina official recommends upgraded, not standardized, ballots

North Carolina official recommends upgraded, not standardized, ballots

By Donna Young

GCN Staff

DEC. 14—The disputes over presidential vote tallies in Florida have prompted calls for a national, uniform method of voting. George Gilbert, director of elections for Guilford County, N.C., ' which claims to be the birthplace of the term 'pregnant chad' ' disagrees with that idea, saying such a move by Congress would be shortsighted.

'It will create a monopoly, eliminate innovation, and costs of equipment will skyrocket,' he said. 'If states would have mandated the use of one voting system in the 1980s, we would all now be using punch cards.' Guilford County did away with its punch card system after a disputed election in 1986.

Guilford used the Votronic touch screen from Election Systems and Software Inc. of Omaha, Neb., for the 2000 election. The county first used the system in 1995 and was the first voting jurisdiction to deploy the system.

The term pregnant chad was coined in Guilford in 1986 during a congressional election in North Carolina's 6th District between Democrat Robin Britt and Republican Howard Coble, the eventual winner. The election was not certified until mid-January 1987. Guilford then threw out the punch card systems and has since used various forms of electronic voting equipment.

Gilbert said that even though there is no perfect voting system on the market today, state and local election officials should not stop upgrading their systems.

'Everyone talks about how expensive it is for voting equipment, but really, no county is going to go bankrupt by purchasing new voting equipment,' he said. 'My office is funded by less than one half of 1 percent of the county's overall budget. You have to have good resources if you are going to run a good election.'

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