The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics accepted a manufactuer's offer yesterday to lend the city 20 new ballot-counting machines that should prevent the kind of confusion at the Nov. 7 general election that followed the September primary.
At yesterday's meeting, the electoral board also stood by its decision to try out a new punch-card voting system next month in Ward 5, rejecting efforts by D.C. Democratic State Committee and by Marion Barry's campaign organization to have the test abandoned.
The offer to provide 20 of the latest model Valtech ballot-counting machines without cost to the city was made by Stan Smith, a representative of the manufacturer.
The machines count votes by scanning small blocks on the ballots that voters are supposed to fill in opposite the names of the candidates they favor.
Smith said the new model is capable of fast counting of large numbers of ballots without the kind of problems that arose in the Sept. 12 ballot count and left the election result in doubt several days.
In the primary election count, the machines now owned by the city failed to "read" more than 7,000 ballots. Those machines were designed for slower use in precinct counts and not for heavy-duty use on a city wide basis, Smith told the board.
Most of the counting devices will be used at the board's central ballot-counting station in the old Pension.
The machines to be tested in Ward 5 are called Datavote, and were used experimentally in one legislative district in Montgomery County in the Sept. 12 primary. The assessment there is that they worked well.
The D.C. Democratic State Committee asked the board to abandon the Ward 5 test, contending, there is not enough time for adequate voter education. Ivanhoe Donaldson, campaign manager of Barry, the Democratic mayoral candidate, said the experiment could add to "the current public" uneasiness over the election process."
The two board members present yesterday, Jeanus B. Parks Jr. and James L. Denson, refused to reverse the decision to try the devices. Board officials said a voter education program is planned.
On another matter, Mary S. Rodgers, the board's elections administrator, said she was preparing to certify Julie Serviates as the Republican candidate for D.C. City Council member in Ward 6, based on three write-in votes in the primary election.
Serviates would run against incumbent Democrat Nadine P. Winter and independents Sonny Better and Charlotte Holmes. The board yesterday deferred the formal recertification of Winter based on a recount of Democratic primary vote on Tuesday, which reaffirmed her victory over challenger Patricia Rice Press.
Rodgers said she also was preparing to certify Herman Cobb Jr. as the Republican candidate in Ward 5, based on two write-in votes. He would run against incumbent Democratic William R. Spaulding, independent candidate Jonathan Owens, Statehood Party nominee Steven Abel and probable write-in aspirant Robert Artist.