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Lawrence Co. receives first of new voter machines

MONTICELLO – Lawrence County officials are busily preparing tomake the adjustment to touch-screen voting machines before the nextelection.

One of the new voting systems has been set up in Circuit ClerkCindy Stokes’ office as an instructional tool to help voters learnthe new system before the June 6 primary for congressionaloffices.

“I would love to see 5,000 hands on this thing in the next fewweeks,” she said.

The machine is the first received in the county. The rest of themachines will arrive Feb. 7. Lawrence County will receive 32systems given to the county by the state and 28 additional systemspurchased by the Board of Supervisors.

“That will give us 60 machines to spread among the 26 precinctsLawrence County presently has,” Stokes said.

Lincoln County Circuit Clerk Terry Lynn Watkins said she alsoexpects delivery of the Lincoln County machines on Feb. 7, butadded it was subject to change. Lincoln County has not yet receivedan advance system to begin early instruction, she said.

Stokes said she believes many potential voters may beintimidated by the new computerized voting process and she isdetermined “to make this new voting system available to everyLawrence County resident before the first election.”

When the additional shipment arrives in February, Stokes, herdeputy clerks and the election commissioners intend to take themachines to schools, businesses and organizational functions, suchas club meetings, to give as many opportunities as possible forresidents to become familiar with their use.

“The more people who come and get the training, the fasterpeople will be able to go through the lines at the votingprecincts,” she said.

Stokes added it will be difficult for poll workers todemonstrate how to use the machine on election day because they arenot allowed to enter the voting booth with the eligible voter.

“We are also planning many training sessions for poll workersbecause their involvement in the election process has been greatlyincreased,” Stokes said.

Poll workers now have to clear the voting system access cards,which are presented to citizens for voting, after each use. Workersalso have to change the paper in the voting machine to keep anaccurate paper trail of ballots cast and other technicalities,Stokes said.

Stokes said she encourages all residents to visit her officesoon to learn how to use the new voting system.

In a related matter, Stokes said the permanent absentee voterfiles have been declared null and void as the state goes to the newvoting system.

Some senior citizens and handicapped people who are physicallyunable to go to the precinct had been kept on file as permanentabsentee voters and received absentee ballots in the mail, Stokessaid. However, with the state law change, those people will have toreapply for permanent absentee voter status.

Application forms can be picked up at her office, Stokes said,and a doctor’s affidavit will need to be attached when it isreturned.

“The new applications for permanent absentee status should berequested and returned as soon as possible,” Stokes said.

Absentee voting for the June 6 U.S. congressional primariesbegins April 22. The general election is Nov. 7.