Election officials report few machine difficulties

Published 6:00 am Thursday, November 9, 2006

Tuesday’s elections, which utilized new touch-screen votingmachines statewide for the first time in a general election, wentrelatively smoothly. However, they still gave election officials animpression of where some minor fine tuning can be made.

Election officials said any process in use for the first timewill have a few kinks to work out, but they were all satisfied withhow well the election went Tuesday and the performance of themachines.

“I think they worked pretty good,” said Lorraine Smith, electioncommissioner for Lawrence County’s District Three. “It just takesus old heads time to catch on.”

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Lawrence County released complete, but unofficial, electionresults around 10:30 p.m., Smith said.

The longest part of the new process, Smith said, is verifyingthe security of the voter cards, which contain a precinct’s totals;the paper trail and other machine parts. Each part that is removedfrom the machine at the precinct by a poll worker receives atamper-proof seal and must be verified by an election commissioneror the circuit clerk’s office before it can proceed to where thevotes are tallied.

Next year’s election process should progress much more quickly,Smith said.

“We’ll be more used to (the machines). I think it will be a lotdifferent next time,” she said. “We’ll be more familiar with theparts, how they’re sealed and how to verify that.”

Charles Smith, chairman of the Lincoln County ElectionCommission, said they were also slowed in the tally process, butfor a different reason. More than 300 people voted absentee, anumber far greater than they were expecting.

Smith said that caused commissioners to hand count a number ofballots because the county did not order enough absentee ballotsand made some on a copy machine. The copies could not be runthrough the machine.

“We would have been done by 10:30 p.m. if we hadn’t had so manyto hand count,” he said.

Other issues that occurred during the day were quickly dealtwith, he said.

“We only had a few small problems, and they were human error,not machine error,” Smith said.

In Copiah County, a clerk said early Wednesday morning that asummary report of the election results had turned up missing andthey were waiting for the technician to arrive to print anotherreport. Until he did, she said, the office could only report whowon the election because of complete, but unofficial, resultsprinted late Tuesday night. However, they could not fax the hardnumbers of how many votes were cast in the election.

That was not correct, said Copiah County Circuit Clerk EdnaStevens.

“I was busy certifying the votes and couldn’t print out anotherrecap sheet,” she said. “We had the complete report, but it’s 24pages long and most people don’t want that. The recap sheet is onlytwo pages and that’s mostly what we hand out.”

The county did experience a few very minor obstacles early inthe morning Tuesday, but they were all resolved very quickly andcaused no delays to voters, Stevens said.

“It was all minor. There was nothing we couldn’t handle thatmorning, and there were very few,” she said.

The 2007 elections will be much larger, Stevens said, andofficials are already planning for the influx of more voters.

“Next year will be a bigger election and we’ll likely send outmore machines to the larger precincts to help with the flow ofvoters,” she said.

Voters apparently approve of the touch-screen machines, electionofficials said. They said they received many more compliments thancomplaints.

District Five Supervisor Gary Walker mentioned a number ofsatisfied voters he spoke with while visiting the polls Tuesday.Many of those were older voters, he said.

“They have really like it, and the young people have, too,”Walker said.

Lincoln County Chancery Clerk Tillmon Bishop told a storyTuesday night about a 91-year-old voter who used the new votingmachines. He said he asked her how it went.

“She said the hardest part was getting in and out of the car togo vote,” Bishop said.

Nell Green, who cast her ballot Tuesday at the City Hallprecinct in Brookhaven, was also optimistic about future use of thenew machines.

“I think it will be good when everybody gets used to it,” Greensaid.

Smith estimated that eight of 10 voters approved of themachines.

“You’ll always have a few people who want to go back to the oldways, but I think after a few election cycles they’ll besatisfied,” he said.

Lincoln County election commissioners stayed at the courthouseafter the election to certify the results, Smith said. Thecommission sent the certified results to the Secretary of State’soffice around 3:30 Wednesday morning, he said.

“Lincoln County was the first of the state’s 82 counties tocertify the election,” he said. “We’re proud of that.”