Dell Computer Corp. Announces Electronic Elections Machine

Dell Computer Corp. announced Monday it is teaming with a maker of electronic voting systems, a partnership inspired in part by the five weeks of recounts and legal battles that followed the last presidential election.

The Round-Rock based company has teamed with Austin-based Hart InterCivic Inc. to "manufacture and market easy-to-use, affordable voting systems that enable accurate, accessible and secure elections through the innovative use of technology," the companies said in a statement.

"The November 2000 elections shined a spotlight on the nation's election infrastructure, and we've clearly heard the need from our customers to help them modernize the way America votes," said Bob McFarland, vice president and general manager of Dell's government sector.

"Election integrity will be critical to future elections," McFarland said.

Dell's announcement comes as Gov. Rick Perry decides whether to sign election reform legislation in Texas.

The bill takes steps to make sure that the problems that plagued Florida during the presidential election do not slow down Texas elections. The bill bans butterfly designed ballots and phases out the use of punch card ballot systems.

Perry hasn't decided whether he will sign the bill. "It's still fairly early in the review process," said spokesman Gene Acuna.

Fourteen of Texas' 254 counties use punch-card ballots: Brazoria, Brazos, Chambers, Collin, Ector, El Paso, Harris, Hays, Howard, Jefferson, Reeves, Smith, Taylor and Wichita.

The counties would not be forced to turn in their voting machines, but would be prohibited from entering into new contracts for punch card ballots after Sept. 1.

President Bush defeated former Vice President Al Gore by 537 votes in Florida, allowing Bush to win the state's Electoral College votes and the White House. Many Gore voters complained that faulty ballot systems did not count their votes or said they were erroneously told they were not registered.

The bill also sets guidelines for how ballots, including irregular ballots, should be handled, counted and stored.

As for Dell's new product, the companies said the system can help by simplifying voting and speeding up results tabulation.

Dell has already begun selling the eSlate Electronic Voting System. Electronic tablets, the devices voters use to cast ballots, cost $2,500 each. The main controller, or server, cost $3,500 and can control up to 12 tablets. For an extra $1,000 the system can be configured to help visually impaired or disabled voters as well as those who have trouble reading.

The companies also are offering training for election officials, poll workers and voters.