Voter confusion does nothing to add to our electoral process

Published 6:00 am Monday, November 8, 2004

While we’re on the topic of elections, a few words must be saidabout the means by and conditions under which local voters do theircivic duty when they head to the polls.

Confusion reigned supreme for some of Brookhaven’s electorateTuesday as they tried to determine their correct polling places.Why the uncertainty? Voters here must go one place for cityelections and another for county (or in this case, federal,elections).

It seems our election officials could streamline the process andmake things easier on voters by consolidating polling places,thereby conducting both city and county elections at the samevoting sites. Reducing the confusion would serve voter interest andpromote the democratic process.

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More confusion, it seems, comes from voters themselves. InLincoln and Lawrence counties last Tuesday, ballot after ballot wasrejected because voters had marked more than one choice in a race -frequently voting, for example for both Democrat John Kerry andConstitution Party candidate Michael Peroutka for president.

Many new voting machines will immediately alert voters to anovervote (or voting for too many candidates in a particular race).In fact, such machines will eventually be mandated under the HelpAmerica Vote Act of 2002. However, local counties andmunicipalities are not using them, due in no small part to the costof the equipment.

At one point, federal money was availabe to buy computerizedvoting systems, and perhaps it will be again. If so, we hope areaofficials will explore taking advantage of such grants at thattime, as, once again, it could reduce voter confusion.

Copiah County had its own problem with overvotes, as hundreds ofballots – an unusually high number –¬†were tossed out because votershad attempted to cast ballots for multiple candidates in a singlerace.

Elections officials are there to help, and it is theirresponsibility to ensure a smooth fair election. But by the sametoken, it is incumbent upon voters to educate themselves on boththe ballot and the voting process before an election to ensuretheir votes are correctly cast and counted.