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Farragut voting goes ‘high tech’

When Farragut residents go to the polls to vote for the candidates of choice, they will do so on new electronic voting machines.

Knox County Administrator of Elections Greg Mackay said the county recently purchased 500 new voting machines with a $1.5 million price tag and they will be available for use during early voting July 14-29 at Farragut Town Hall. Federal funds were applied toward the purchase.

Known as eSlate, proponents say the new system will make voting more efficient.

“We’re going to have a demonstration day at all the early voting locations on Saturday, July fifteenth, from ten a.-m. to two p.-m.,” he said. “Anyone interested in the new machines can come and participate.”

For those who wish to perform their civic duty and vote but are hesitant to deal with new technology, Mackay offers words of encouragement.

“Using the eSlate is as easy as using your washing machine,” he said. “To use the eSlate, a voter simply turns a SELECT wheel to highlight the candidate of choice, [then] presses the ENTER button to mark that choice.”

After reviewing a Ballot Summary screen showing the votes, the voter will press the CAST BALLOT button to finish voting. Voters requiring further information while voting should press the HELP button once to get instruction on the screen or press it twice to ask for help from a poll worker.

“It’s all digital,” he said. “It has a dial on it that has one hundred percent positional accuracy. It’s not touch screen, so you don’t get into calibration issues and all that other stuff.”

The system does allow election officials to create a paper trail should the need arise.

“What is does is give you a random re-creation of a vote on paper,” Mackay said. “It doesn’t allow you to say Joe voted third so let’s see how he voted. It scrambles the order.”

In the event of a recount with the new machines, Mackay said there is a specific procedure involved.

“We can do a digital recount or print out the ballots and count them that way,” he said. “We can redo the tabulation process either way.”

The candidates are entered through a main database in the county election office.

“We bought the software so we can do it ourselves,” Mackay said. “Just like all our other machines, about six to eight weeks before the election we go through and put in all the names.”

Why the change in the way Knox countians vote?

“Congress passed the Help America Vote Act in 2002 and said that we had to have a machine in every precinct that was accessible to persons with disabilities,” Mackay said. “Rather than get just one machine and have two different styles of machine, we just replaced the whole system.”

Mackay said Knox County knew a change was necessary and had been examining the issue for several years.

“We set up a Help American Vote task force to advise us, a commission made up of a lot of community members,” he said. “We thought this system was more durable and efficient than anything else out there.”

Mackay said Knox County officials liked the security features on the new eSlate system.

“Both the software and the hardware have the I-S-O nine-zero-zero-one security certificate,” he said. “It also has the B-S-seven-seven-nine-nine. People who are in the software industry will understand more about that than I do, but it’s the only one made that has those security features.”

Mackay said there is no chance that would-be hackers could access these machines. In order to do so, a hacker would have to access through a numbered code on an individual machine basis.

“These machines all have smart cards in them,” he said.

For more information or to schedule a demonstration for an organization, call 865-215-2480.


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