By LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD
News & Journal Editor
Harrison County’s new electronic voting equipment was used for the first time for the school levy in December … then used again in the May primary election. They will be used once again for November’s General Election. By the time the next election rolls around, there may be NO paper ballots, according to Harrison County Clerk Susan Thomas.
“Many people still preferred paper ballots during the primary, but we did have some voters who were willing to try the new equipment without much fuss,” she stated. “Sometimes they needed a little help, but help was available. We want to encourage folks to use these machines because before long (probably by 2018), electronic voting will be the ONLY way to vote!”
In an attempt to familiarize people with the new machines and to help them feel more comfortable, Mrs. Thomas is taking the time to visit at various locales throughout the county prior to November to give demonstrations and show voters how easy it is.”
Thomas said they are working diligently to have more poll workers during the General Election to make things run more smoothly. And they have acquired 40 more voting machines to add to the 300 they already have. In addition, there will be privacy screens for the electronic equipment so that those sitting next to you can’t see how you mark your ballot.
“We had a great turnout during the primary and I anticipate this being the biggest election I will ever see in November,” she added.
Thomas said that four counties in West Virginia use this same equipment and it has proven to be very reliable. She also related some of the advantages of electronic voting.
“It is truly very use-friendly,” she said. “For example, on a paper ballot, let’s say that you make a mistake and vote for five candidates for an office instead of just four. The entire paper ballot would have to be thrown out. However, with the electronic method, the machine would not allow you to vote for more than you are supposed to.”
Other electronic ‘perks’ are that they provide easy readability, voters can sit comfortably while voting, and it is all touch screen! In addition, electronic voting technology can speed the counting of ballots, reduce the cost of paying staff to count votes manually, and can provide improved accessibility for disabled voters.
“I realize that people are for the most part ‘creatures of habit’ and they don’t like ‘change’!” she continued. “Some people, particularly older voters, are rather intimidated by using the new equipment. But it is not a computer with a keyboard for typing. It only requires a touch of the fingertip … and if you make a mistake, you CAN go back and correct it. I think that once people understand the simplicity of this electronic equipment and how user-friendly it is, they will see just how very simple and fast it can be.”
That is the purpose of Thomas conducting these demonstrations – to give one-on-one instruction to ease voter fears of something new! The demonstration locales are as follows:
• West Milford Community Center, Sept. 12th, 10 a.m.
• Lost Creek Community Bldg., Sept. 12th, 11:30 a.m.
• Spelter Fire Department, Sept. 20th, 10 a.m.
• Lumberport Community Center, Sept. 20th, 11:30 a.m.
• Shinnston City Building, Sept. 20th, 2 p.m.
• Summit Park Fire Department, Sept. 22nd, 10 a.m.
• Meadowbrook Mall, Sept. 24th, 12 – 2 p.m.
• Parks & Recreation Bldg., Sept. 26th, 11 a.m.
• Northview St. James Church, Sept. 27th, 10 a.m.
• Duff St. United Methodist Church, Sept. 30th, 2 p.m.
• Courthouse Lobby, Sept. 30th, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.
• Courthouse Lobby, Oct. 5th, 2 p.m.
• Harrison Co. Senior Center, Oct. 18th, 10:30 a.m.
• Harrison Co. Senior Center, Oct. 24th, 10:30 a.m.
Classes should involve no longer than one hour unless noted above.
Thomas says that with more machines in use during the General Election, she does not anticipate voters having a long wait time.
“AND if they become acquainted with the machines by attending the demos, it will make it easier as well. Add to that the fact that the ballot won’t be as long this time, so any lines we’re hoping will move swiftly,” she said.
Thomas also reminds everyone that early voting will take place beginning on October 26th through November 5th for the 2016 General Election. You may vote at the Courthouse on these dates from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday hours will also be available at the Courthouse from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Two other locations as well will be available for early voting – at the Meadowbrook Mall and at Eastpointe at the former Mountain State Dermatology office next to Medpointe. Hours at each of these locations will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays and on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“We want people to exercise their right to vote, and we are trying to make it as convenient and available to them as possible – particularly with Saturday hours for those who work through the week. We are doing our best to offer every opportunity for Harrison County voters to turn out and cast their votes!” she concluded.