Naked City

Bad News for Luddites

The most essential element of democracy is about to go high-tech. Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir stopped by the Chronicle offices last week to show off the new electronic voting system (see photo) that her office intends to use in future elections. The impressive system, named eSlate, was designed by Austin's own Hart Intercivic (a supplier of e-systems to governments) and seems to follow the "Keep It Simple, Stupid" rule. eSlate doesn't require operators to be familiar with computers and seems foolproof, including many features to prevent voter errors (and, hopefully, future Floridas). It also has features to improve the voting experience for visually impaired and illiterate voters. And eliminating pencils should resolve stray marks/voter intent questions.

Still, Naked City knows what the road to hell is paved with, and wonders how putting the system into practice will compare with DeBeauvoir's demonstration. The clerk is currently conducting a "massive" outreach and voter education program to keep citizens from being surprised when they enter the voting booth. The eSlate system will take a test run during November's early voting, and should be fully deployed for the city's May 2003 election and throughout Travis County by November 2003. The system is already in use in Harris and Tarrant Counties.

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