City plans to use voting machines good move for all

Published 5:15 pm Wednesday, January 9, 2013

From all indications, a move by city and county leaders for Brookhavenites to use voting machines in this year’s municipal elections should produce nothing but good results for all involved.

     First of all, for voters and candidates, the machines should speed up returns on election night and let citizens know who won sooner. This year’s move is historic in that city officials previously used paper ballots, which meant for laborious and time-consuming hand counting.

     With ballots from only six voting places to be counted – by machine and not by hand – elections officials have predicted that results could be known as soon as two hours after the polls close.

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     County election observers may think that is a bit optimistic because of past difficulties involved with paper absentee and affidavit ballots that need to be handled individually. Even with relatively few races on the ballot, it has not been uncommon for county elections to not be fully tabulated until midnight or later – several hours after the polls close at 7 p.m.

     On the other hand, what makes the several-hour prediction seem realistic is, indeed, the limited number of precincts to be counted, their proximity to the government complex and a smaller voter population.

     Instead of potentially more than 20,000 voters casting ballots at 32 county precincts as far away as Ruth, Brookhaven’s voting age population is less than 10,000. And Ward Five’s voting place at the Brookhaven Recreation Department is about the farthest one away from the government complex.

     Furthermore, the city elections will allow another use of the machines that were purchased several years ago using federal Help America Vote Act funds. Until this year, their only use was for county, state and federal elections.

     New Lincoln County Circuit Clerk Dustin Bairfield will be involved in preparation process for this year’s city elections. The primaries will be conducted by the respective parties’ executive committees, and the general election will be handled by the Brookhaven Election Commission.

     The exposure Bairfield gains this year through the limited use of the voting machines will give him insight for countywide elections, when all 32 voting precincts are in play, and for next year’s federal contests.

     Brookhaven voters are certainly no strangers to the use of voting machines, having used them in multiple prior elections. Thanks to the cooperative move by the city and county leaders, Brookhavenites will now be able to use the machines to choose their own municipal leaders.