New voting machines arrived this week at the Cleveland County Election Board in Norman.

Election Board Secretary Jim Williams said the new machines will be used officially for the first time in the Feb. 14 school board elections.

“It’s an exciting time in Oklahoma elections,” Williams said.

The new scanners have advanced capabilities that will put Oklahoma on the cutting edge as a leader in electronic voting technology.

A total of 103 electronic scanners or e-scans will go to local polling places, said Williams. Each polling place will only need one scanner, a change from the past when any split precinct had to have more than one ballot counting machine.

“One machine can read ballots for multiple precincts,” Williams said. “The biggest thing with this new generation is it is equipped to serve disabled voters.”

Designed primarily for blind voters, the machine can take an audio vote. A special headphone allows for voter privacy.

“We’re going to be the only state in the country that has a machine that allows a disabled voter to mark a ballot independently and privately,” Williams said.

The new machine is also more self-contained.

It’s lighter than our old machines,” Williams said.

The new e-scanners look like large briefcases. The machines are self-enclosed, portable units. They will sit on top of new ballot boxes and lock into place to protect the security of the ballot process.

“The machine is new but the process is the same,” Williams said. “It’s simply the scanner that is different and the operating software.”

Still, the election board will preview the new machine for any interested voters. A “Mock Election” on Jan 9-12 will allow voters to fill out a ballot similar to the Oklahoma favorites ballot as part of a public demonstration to allow voters to become familiar with the new machines. The demonstration will take place in the lobby of the Cleveland County Election Board at 641 E Robinson Street just east of the Cleveland County Fairgrounds.

“It will help us get one last test of the new system,” Williams said.

That demonstration coincides with city council filing dates for Norman and Moore. The filing period for city council elections in both municipalities will run Jan. 9, 10 and 11. Wednesday is the last day of the filing period, however, while the mock election will continue on through Thursday.

Joy Hampton 366-3539 jhampton@normantranscript.com

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