New counting machine finds some old problems

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, November 8, 2000

The county’s new vote-scanning machine still can’t count foldedballots.

Counting of Lincoln County votes in Tuesday’s election was notfinished until shortly before midnight. One reason cited byelection officials was the machine, making its inaugural electionuse last night, hung up periodically when it encountered a ballotthat had been folded. Usually the culprit was either an absenteeballot or an affidavit ballot.

“We had a lot of absentees,” said Circuit Clerk Terry CaseWatkins.

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According to records, over 900 absentee ballots were cast inyesterday’s election. The number of affidavit ballots, which areneeded when there is voter registration discrepancy, was notimmediately known.

When those ballots are used, they are folded and placed in anenvelope. Apparently, that presented problems for the vote-scanningmachine.

Tracy Bailey, scanning machine operator, displayed one ballotthat appeared more rolled than folded. He also mentioned some candystains, dirt and other debris seen on some ballots.

While election officials reported few overall problems,Tuesday’s election was not without some glitches. A number of theminvolved affidavit ballots.

Election commissioners said a number of precincts in severaldistricts ran out of envelopes used for affidavit ballots and hadto be resupplied.

Voter registration issues also may have contributed to thenumber of affidavit ballots needed.

Election Commission Chairman Bernard McClelland said that,especially in town, there was some confusion between city wardelection voting places and voting place for county elections, whichwere used Tuesday. Watkins agreed.

“That was a lot of the calls we got today,” she said.

There were reports Tuesday of one spouse, but not the other,being registered at a particular voting place. Jo Beth Thompson,who lost a county school board race by 13 votes, mentioned that instating her plans to seek a recount.

A voter’s failure to re-register at his new address after a movewas another reason mentioned for affidavit ballots. Watkinsencouraged citizens to verify their voting precinct with her officeafter they move.

McClelland also mentioned a big voter registration push in lateSeptember and early October. He said new voters’ names were enteredinto the computer and should have been printed in voter pollbooks.

“I’m satisfied computers can make mistakes,” McClellandsaid.

Earlier Tuesday, Watkins reported no problems with officialsmoving two voting locations.

Because the old activities building was torn down, High Schoolprecinct voting was down at the Vo-Tech Building. Also, City Hallprecinct voting was done inside the chamber of commerce officeinstead of in the old fire station behind the chamber building.

“They did that the last election,” Watkins said, pointing themove was permissible since the new location was within eyesight ofthe old one. “That’s not creating any problems what we knowof.”

Overall yesterday, 13,917 people cast ballots in Tuesday’selection. That represented about 58 percent of the county’sregistered voter population of 23,678.

Watkins was pleased with the turnout, but she indicated there’sstill room for improvement.

“It’s still not what it should be, but it’s above average,”Watkins said.