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RI voters get new voting machines for upcoming elections

NBC10 Photo

Rhode Island voters who head to the polls in the upcoming elections will be casting their ballots with new voting machines.

The biggest change you'll notice, is how you fill out the ballot.

"No longer do you connect the arrows, you fill in the circle," said Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, who demonstrated the new scanner to NBC 10 Saturday at the first of a series of outreach events meant to familiarize voters with the new machines.

The new machines replace ones that are nearly twenty years old, purchased in 1997.

The process is generally the same: you fill out a paper ballot then place it in the scanner, but the technology is turned up a notch.

"It's not like when we went from lever machines to the scanning of ballots. It's still a paper ballot, put it in the scanner, there's just a little more help along the way to guide you if you do something wrong," said Secretary Gorbea.

If you do make a mistake, for example voting more than once in a particular race, the computer issues a message saying you filled in too many ovals in one of the contests.

You can still cast the ballot if you want, but the votes won't count.

Or you can hit "return" to get the ballot back and fill one out correctly.

Secretary Gorbea says the new machines will help ensure voter intent is clear and make the election process in her words more "fair, fast and accurate."

In addition, each has a wireless transmitter that goes directly to the Rhode Island Board of Elections, which means race results will come in much more quickly on election night.

When asked if there's concern the wireless technology could lead to tampering or inaccuracies, Gorbea said, " It's backed up by paper ballots for people out there who are a little suspicious and say 'well, it's a wireless transmission.' You've got the paper ballots, you can always do the recounts."

Gorbea says she looked very seriously at the security issue before choosing the new machines, which will first be tested during Rhode Island's September 13th primary election.

For a list of dates and locations where the new voting machines will be on display before the upcoming elections, go to: http://www.ri.gov/press/view/28220.

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