Three companies vying to win the contract to supply voting machines to Forsyth County demonstrated their wares Friday morning, with a decision coming soon on which the county will select.
The companies, Clear Ballot Group Inc., Election Systems & Software LLC and Hart InterCivic Inc. all set up tables in a meeting room on the fourth floor of the Forsyth County Government Center at 201 N. Chestnut St.
Representatives of the companies showed off their equipment, made presentations and had brochures explaining their systems to give away.
"There are a lot of similarities and all of them are good," said Susan Campbell, a member of the Forsyth County Board of Elections, after the demonstrations were over. "They would all do a good job for Forsyth County."
Tim Tsujii, the director of the local elections office, said that between now and Tuesday he would be putting together information on the three systems to present to the local elections board.
The board meets Tuesday to select a preferred system among the three.
While the elections board decides which system it prefers, the county board of commissioners will make the spending decisions.
Dave Plyler, the chairman of the county board, was impressed that so many people came to look over the equipment and ask questions.
"All three companies had particularly good ideas in regard to transparency," Plyler said. "Their facilities cannot be hacked. If you look at it from the standpoint of a 21st-century voting machine, all three of them had the very same things in mind. They don't want their machines hacked. And if you make a mistake on a ballot, they can give you another ballot."
The voting equipment being looked at includes both touch-screen machines that can produce a physical ballot marked with the voter's choices, and tabulators that can count ballots, both hand-marked and printed-out.
Currently, the county uses a sort of hybrid method of both touch-screen and voter-marked ballots. People taking part in early voting typically encounter the touch-screen voting method, making their choices among candidates or ballot questions by touching a computer screen.
Then, during the general election, people typically mark paper ballots that are fed through a tabulator.
The iVotronic machines are being decertified for elections later this year, elections officials say. Campbell said one problem with the iVotronic machines is that they do not produce a hard-copy ballot.
The new machines not only do that, but warn a voter if a ballot has what are called overvotes: contests in which the voter has selected more candidates than allowed — for example, voting for four people when the contest allows the voter to choose only three. Since overvotes are not counted, the new machinery would tell the voter about any overvotes and spit out the ballot to give the voter another try.
Robert Durrah Jr., a member of the elections board, said he liked equipment that counts the ballots quickly.
"We have a big county," he said.