Counters to be tested

By Dave Gomez

DeKalb County will hold a public test of vote-counting equipment today in Sycamore.

The automatic tabulating equipment will be used in the Nov. 2 general election, said DeKalb County Clerk Sharon Holmes.

The county holds the test so people can see how the equipment functions, Holmes said.

The equipment, manufactured by Ohio-based Diebold, Inc., has been used for four years in both the 2000 general election and local elections, Holmes said.

To check accuracy, a “zero tape” with no votes is run through the machine, followed by a tape with a controlled number of ballots.

Republican and Democratic party representatives from DeKalb County are expected to observe the test, Holmes said.

Vote counting in Florida was called into question during the controversial 2000 general election.

In Florida, the state that would decide the winner of the election, 2,909,135 votes went to Republican candidate and eventual winner George W. Bush, while Democratic candidate Al Gore received 2,907,351 votes, according to Florida Supreme Court records.

The difference in the total votes cast for each candidate was less than 0.5 percent of the total votes cast for the office, resulting in an automatic recount; however, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 to stop the recount.

Diebold Chief Executive Walden O’ Dell caused controversy when he wrote he was “committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year” in a fundraiser letter to Ohio Republicans in August.

O’Dell’s letter was inappropriate, said Eileen Dubin, DeKalb Democratic central committee chair.

“I think companies like that should be out of politics,” she said.

While she said she was worried about the election as a whole, Dubin said she was not particularly concerned about any voting troubles in DeKalb because the county uses ballots that leave a paper trail.

DeKalb County GOP Chair Mary Simon strongly defended the use of the Diebold equipment.

“I used to work in the county clerk’s office, and I can vouch for the security of everything in that office,” Simon said.

“The Democrats didn’t seem to have a problem with these machines in the past,” Simon said. “I see no problem with these machines whatsoever.”

The public tests do not draw large crowds as there have never been problems with the equipment before, Simon said.

The public test will be held at 2 p.m. today in the County Administration Building, 110 E. Sycamore St., Sycamore.