Brignall voters learn ropes of new touch-screen machines

Published 6:00 am Thursday, March 30, 2006

About 40 people gathered at New Jerusalem Missionary BaptistChurch Wednesday night to put new computerized voting machines tothe test.

Lincoln County voting precincts are hosting workshops on the newmachines in an ongoing effort to educate voters before the nextelection.

“We’ve had a great response. People are amazed at how easy it isto use them,” said Lincoln County Circuit Clerk Terry Lynn Watkins.”Tonight, we’re just basically going teach people how to use thenew machines.”

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Participants at last night’s events were appreciative of thechance to familiarize themselves with the new touch-screenmachines.

“It means a whole to the community to come here and learn how touse the machines,” said Charles Magee, pastor of New JerusalemMissionary Baptist Church.”If they don’t come, they won’tlearn.”

Magee said the process is essential to “educate them on how todo it before the regular time.” The pastor observed as District OneElection Commissioner John Hightower and Watkins unloaded the newmachines shortly before 6 p.m.

“They’re pretty easy to set up,” Hightower said. “They takeabout 10 to 15 minutes to set up. The screen tells you if it is notworking correctly.”

Community members began filing in the Brignall community churchand jumped right into the educational process.

“I came here tonight to learn how to use the computerized votingmachine,” said resident Helen Irving.

After a brief tutorial, voters like Irving filled out a sampletouch screen ballot. The process only took a few minutes and servedto remove any intimidation voters may have.

“I think it was all right,” Magee said after his sample vote.”If you change your mind and you want to go back and change it, youhave the privilege to do it.”

The touch screen machine walks voters through step by step,enabling them to make alterations to their ballot before it isregistered. Watkins explained to voters that each selection isregistered on a card that is inserted into the machine.

Once your ballot is confirmed, however, Watkins said there’s nogoing back. Cards must be given to poll workers to be cleared.

Special concessions are made to ensure that everyone can use thecomputerized ballots.

“We took one person over the handicapped head phones,” Hightowersaid. “For people who can not see, the machine guides them. Themachine is blacked out so no one can see what the person hasvoted.”

Community members appreciated that poll workers will be on handto assist disadvantaged voters.

Officials hope their educational efforts will yield a greatervoter turnout and eliminate the potential for confusion andchaos.

“I think it’s a good idea,” Irving said. I’m glad they’re gonnahave people to help the elderly and those who don’t know how toread.”