updated 4/28/2004 9:25:41 PM ET 2004-04-29T01:25:41

Ten counties with touch-screen voting machines can use them in November -- but only if alternative paper ballots are offered in each precinct, a state advisory committee recommended Wednesday.

The committee considered banning touch-screen voting in the 10 counties, but voted 7-0 for a compromise that sets up numerous conditions.

The vote also bans other counties in California from introducing new ATM-like electronic voting equipment in November, unless the machines include a verified paper trail of votes cast.

Secretary of State Kevin Shelley has the final say on the panel's recommendation; he's expected to decide by Friday.

The committee's action follows its recommendation last week to ban the use of 15,000 Diebold Elections Systems voting machines in four counties, citing security concerns, malfunctions in the March election and Diebold's last-minute changes to its machines just before the election.

Shelley will also rule on that recommendation by Friday.

The 14 counties that use touch-screen machines represent 6.5 million voters, 43 percent of the state's total.

Learn how voting systems work, from paper ballots to e-voting.The panel acted after more than two days of testimony that largely challenged the security and accuracy of paperless voting.

But advocates for the disabled defended touch-screen voting for allowing them to vote privately, and many of the state's registrars of voters argued against a ban.

Registrars say the machines are popular with voters and produced accurate vote counts. They argue a ban forcing the counties back to paper ballots would cost up to $30 million.

If Shelley decides against a blanket statewide ban, the Legislature is also considering a pair of bills that would ban touch-screen voting this November.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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