by Barbara King You wouldn't think voters in New York City and Jennings County would have a lot in common. But they do. Come this May 6 primary election, Democrats and Republicans here and there will be using the same DS200 voting machines to choose their candidates for the fall election. Forty-four of the brand new voting machines arrived at the courthouse last week, bringing a higher level of security and reliability to the county's election process. JC Clerk Mary Kilgore oversaw the unloading and certification process as the Omaha, Nebrasks-based Election Systems and Software (ESS) representatives checked and certified the equipment as ready to go. The new equipment replaces the "Eagle" machines purchased in 1996. Amazingly, those machines cost $5700 apiece for a total county expenditure of $358,000. This go round, thanks to advancement in technology and an accompanying decrease in the cost of technology, the total bill for the 22 paper ballot machines and the 20 ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant machines, seemed a bargain-$157,585. The purchase is funded by the recent bond the county issued. The DS200s fit the demands of local residents, said Kilgore, noting they "continue with the tradition of paper ballots, which is important to our voters." The new machines also increase the control a voter has over his or her ballot. In the old analog machines, if power went out, ballots were stored and then run through the machine once power was restored. Usually, the voter would have left the poll by then. The new machines have at least a two-hour battery back-up so if power is lost, voting can continue unabated and the voter can run his or her own ballot through the machine. The DS200s will also let the voter know if he forgot to vote in a race or if he mistakenly voted twice in the same race so a correction can be made. Perhaps most impressive for vote security is that the machine takes an actual photograph of each and every ballot. The photo is stored on a "military grade" encrypted memory stick. The DS200 machines are new to the state, with Jennings being the first to purchase the model. ESS personnel will return in April to load the actual ballot information into the machines and conduct the public testing.