Among those not sharing Clark’s enthusiasm for Diebold Election Systems Inc. include some circuit clerks, U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, the Legislative Black Caucus and the NAACP.
Clark last week said the state had entered into a $15 million contract with Diebold for 5,164 new touch-screen voting machines – about one for every 190 voters. The machines will help Mississippi become compliant with the federal Help America Vote Act, which mandates that scanner, lever and punch-card machines be replaced by Jan. 1.
A key issue is that the machines initially will not be equipped to accommodate paper verification of votes, a feature Clark said will be added if Congress fully funds the reforms in next year’s budget.
“With all of the stuff that goes on with elections in this state, for us not to have a paper record is ridiculous,” said Thompson, whose 2006 re-election contest will be among the first with new machines.
State Rep. Walter Robinson, D-Bolton, who chairs the Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus, agrees. “These machines fail to provide a paper trail – making it very difficult to ensure the integrity of the voting process,” Robinson said in a June 30 letter to Clark. He also questioned whether poor counties could afford enough machines to meet their needs.