Supply issues plague early voting

Published 6:00 pm Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Lincoln County voting precincts appearedill-prepared for early morning voters in Tuesday’s primaryelections as some voting machines lacked a necessary component forcasting ballots.

    All county precincts initially lacked voter access cards needed tooperate electronic voting machines. But some precincts were able toget them delivered by the time polls opened at 7 a.m.

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    However, other precincts were forced to temporarily use paperballots.

    “This is the most incompetent, unorganized, irresponsible mess I’veever seen, and I’ve been working the polls for years,” said CheriAltman, a Republican poll worker at the Ruth precinct.

    Altman said Republican and Democratic poll workers arrived at herprecinct Tuesday morning and discovered they lacked the voteraccess cards that are required to program ballots into theelectronic voting machines.

    A local election official downplayed the issue when contacted laterTuesday.

    “The thing with the voter access card was simply an oversight bythe Republican and Democratic executive committees. It was notintentional. It was human error,” said Rod Jordan, vice chairman ofthe Lincoln County Republican Party executive committee.

    Republican and Democratic poll workers at each precinct areequipped with a supply bag.

    The bags are supposed to contain the voter access cards, pens, anotebook, and poll books. As Altman experienced at the Ruthprecinct, voter access cards were left out of all precinct supplybags.

    Jordan said the bags are prepared the day before elections in ajoint effort by the Republican and Democratic executive committees,the circuit clerk’s office and volunteers.

    Most polls workers arrive an hour early at their precincts, Jordansaid. Therefore, the circuit clerk’s office and the respectiveparties were alerted to the voter card problem before pollsopened.

    Voter access cards were subsequently delivered to some precinctsbefore polls opened. Access cards were being delivered this morningto precincts that were not able to get them by 7 a.m.

    Some precincts resorted to paper ballots while the access cardswere in the process of being delivered.

    At Ruth, Altman said paper ballots were used and that at one time,there was a line of 20 people waiting due to the increased votingtime paper ballots require.

    The Pearlhaven precinct also used paper ballots.

    “We didn’t get the cards for the machines,” said Carroll LesterSmith, poll manager, around 7:15 a.m. “We have to go the oldfashion way.”

    Local elections officials were working to resolve issues Tuesdaymorning.

    “It’s been a heck of a morning,” said Helen Funk, Lincoln CountyDemocratic Executive Committee chairman.

    Though Altman and other poll workers expressed frustration, somevoters did not mind.

    “It don’t really bother me,” said Gwen Dillon, an early voter atPearlhaven.

    District Two Supervisor Bobby Watts, whose office is located withinthe Pearlhaven voting precinct, said he tried to call thecourthouse to help get cards, but no one was answering.

    “Nothing ever goes right in Lincoln County,” he said with alaugh.

    There were even some problems encountered with paper ballots.Altman said her precinct lacked ink pens to mark the paper ballotswith.

    “I don’t know what they’re doing the night before,” she said of theparty heads. “They have days to get this right.”

    Jordan said the lack of pens was more a failure of communicationthan of preparation.

    “A lot of the pens were put into one bag and then were supposed tobe distributed to all polls workers,” Jordan said.

    John Roberts, chairman of the Lincoln County Republican Partyexecutive committee, declined to offer comment on the nature of theproblems.

    “I want to wait for an attorney. There were so many irregularitiesout there,” he said. “This is why I asked the secretary of state’soffice to come in.”

    Representatives from the Mississippi Secretary of State’s officewere in Lincoln County observing the election at Roberts’request.

    As of approximately 8 a.m. Tuesday, the Government Complex precincthad recorded 15 Democratic votes and no Republican votes.

    Ed Puffer, a Republican poll worker at the Government Complex,expected to see some Republican voters soon.

    “You will have a big line for a while sometimes, and then nobody,”he said. “It comes in waves.”

    By approximately 8:30 a.m., a spot check of voting showed the CityHall precinct reported 14 Democratic votes and 11 Republican votes,the Northwest Brookhaven District reported nine Democratic and 10Republican votes and Halbert Heights had seen 58 Republican and 20Democratic ballots.

    Lifestyles Editor Tammie Brewer contributed to thisreport.