Arizona considers shift away from punch card ballots

Arizona considers shift away from punch card ballots

By Wilson P. Dizard III

GCN Staff

JAN. 8—An informal, high-level working group led by two Arizona state senators is debating whether the state should replace its punch card voting machines.

Arizona Secretary of State Betsey Bayless, the state's top election official, is a member of the task force, which also includes local officials.

Sens. David Petersen (R) and Chris Cummiskey (D) convened the task force, said Jessica Funkhouser, director of elections in the Secretary of State's office.

Five Arizona counties, with about 80 percent of the state's population, use optical-scanning systems. The 10 counties with the remaining 20 percent have punch card systems, Funkhouser said.

The task force is considering whether the state should require punch card systems to be replaced with direct vote recording machines. Funkhouser estimated the conversion would cost several million dollars.

She said Arizona had no counting problems in the November election because officials adhere to a detailed manual for counting ballots with hanging or bulging chad.

According to the Arizona manual, punch card machines must be tested before election day to make sure they can punch holes properly for all candidates, and they must be checked throughout the day to confirm correct operation.

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