Voting off to strong start, area election officials say

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Voters swarmed polling places this morning to cast their ballotsin federal congressional and area judicial races using the new andcontroversial touch-screen voting machines.

Turnout for the election has been very good, said Lincoln CountyCircuit Clerk Terry Lynn Watkins, and poll workers have reportedfew problems with the new machines.

“Everything seems to be going very well,” she said. “We seem tobe having a great turnout.”

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Most precincts were reporting more than 50 voters less thanthree hours after the polls opened at 7 a.m., she said.

Turnout has also been good in Lawrence County, said CircuitClerk Cindy Stokes. She said the county received 148 absenteeballots before Saturday’s deadline, and attendance at the pollsthis morning has been high.

“It looks to me like we’ll have a pretty good voter turnout,”Stokes said.

Today’s general election is the first to feature the new Dieboldtouch-screen machines.

Watkins said Lincoln County was not experiencing any majordelays or problems associated with the machines.

“Most of our calls have been about people not sure where tovote,” she said. “Nothing out of the ordinary.”

In Lawrence County, Stokes said the election was proceedingsmoothly. However, some precincts did have a few minor obstacles toovercome.

“There’s been a few minute things. Most of them we’ve been ableto handle over the phone,” she said.

At the Topeka Voting Precinct in Lawrence County, poll workerGerlene Bardwell said one machine would not accept the paper rollneeded to create the paper trail and the machine could not be usedwhen the precinct first opened.

The precinct had two machines, however, and voting continued onthe other machine. The flow of voters at the precinct was onlyslowed slightly by the mechanical problem, she said.

Stokes said the dysfunctional machine at Topeka was operating by8 a.m.

Early voters at Topeka said the machines were easier to use thanexpected and, once people became familiar with the process, wouldtake less time to cast ballots.

“I liked it,” said Felicia Womack, a Topeka voter. “It was quickand easy.”