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Equipment fails election duties

Lincoln Countians like to consider themselves members of aprogressive community. One area where that has yet to be proved iscounting votes on election day.

Tuesday’s general election was another example. Vote-counting(not including ballots that were counted by hand Wednesdayafternoon) was not completed until after midnight, long afterelection officials in surrounding counties had finished and gonehome.

We are not pointing fingers at our election officials. They dothe best job they can with the equipment that’s available.

At this point, however, we can’t say the purchase of a new$40,000 vote-scanning machine two years ago was money wellspent.

Any moisture in the air on election day causes ballots to becomesticky, which in turn stops the machine when they are scanned.Local election officials have spoken with other counties about waysto address this problem.

We think it’s time to overhaul the system altogether, and thecost may not be as much as some people think.

A recently-passed law provides $3.9 billion in federal grantsfor states to improve their voting methods, voter education andpoll worker training. Lincoln County should seriously considerseeking out a portion of those funds.

Hinds County recently spent $1.5 million to purchase 550 touchscreen voting machines. Tuesday was the county’s first test of thenew system, and no problems were reported.

With two voting machines for each of Lincoln County’s 32precincts, the cost would be approximately $175,000. Add an extramachine or two for some of the county’s larger precincts and thecost would still be only around $200,000.

Timely election returns is not only a media issue.

Voters also like to get returns as soon as possible, and theylisten to the radio or television to get them on election night.Voters rely on their local newspapers so they can studyprecinct-by-precinct returns in the next day’s edition.

Some of our radio station friends, though, abandoned theircoverage Tuesday night after several hours of counting had producedresults from only seven of 32 precincts.

We think $200,000 is not a bad price to pay for a system thatreduces chances of voter fraud, provides more accurate electionresults and delivers them at a decent hour.