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Friday, Oct. 24, 2014

Local election judges train to use equipment

Sunday, July 30, 2006

(Photo)
New Madrid County election judges familiarize themsevles with one of the county's new AutoMark voting machines.
NEW MADRID -- County clerks have been scrambling to prepare election judges for new equipment to be used in the primary election Aug. 8 but most voters in this area will be able to vote the same way they always have.

"There will be new voting machines out in the precincts," New Madrid County Clerk Clement Cravens said, "but for the vast majority of voters, nothing will change."

A demonstration of the new AutoMark voting machines that will be seen in New Madrid County precincts was conducted Thursday morning.

"It went fairly well -- it was some brand-new technology to teach to the election judges who never had to deal with this before," said Cravens. "It's primarily for the handicapped."

Voters without physical handicaps will still fill in the ovals of an optical scan ballot as in the past.

Handicapped voters may choose to use one of the new AutoMark voting machines which will fill in their selections on the very same type of ballot.

"This is not going to change the way the vast majority of the voters will vote at the polling place," Cravens said. "They will still mark their ballots as usual on an optical scan ballot and deposit it in a ballot box."

Mississippi County also purchased AutoMark voting machines to comply with the Help America Vote Act. Mississippi County Clerk Junior DeLay conducted a demonstration of his county's new voting machines Monday.

All the ballots in both New Madrid and Mississippi counties -- those filled out by hand and those filled in by the AutoMark voting machines -- will be taken to their respective courthouse and tabulated.

"We did have to upgrade to a new central tabulator but it basically functions the same way as the old tabulator unit," Cravens said.

He explained the old tabulators would not read ballots marked by the AutoMark machines.

There was a bonus to the purchase of the new tabulators.

"It's much faster -- I'd approximate four times faster," Cravens said. "It will really, really speed up the process."

Unlike New Madrid and Mississippi counties, Scott County no longer needs a central tabulator as Scott County's second chance voting machines are also precinct tabulators.

Depending on whether they voted in the April election, Scott County voters will see one or two new voting machines at the polls.

"I have the second chance voting machine and then DRE accessible voting machines for the handicapped," said Scott County Clerk Rita Milam. "We used the second chance voting in April already."

Scott County's election judges are slated to learn how to use their handicapped-accessible voting machines on Monday. Instead of marking ballots like the new machines in New Madrid and Mississippi counties, Scott County's handicapped-accessible DRE machines record votes into a memory pack.

"The election judges will bring the memory pack up to the courthouse," Milam said. "We'll put those in a memory pack reader and we will have results instantly."

For those not using the handicapped-accessible machines in Scott County, ballots are still pretty much the same.

"They still use paper and pencil to fill it out and instead of dropping it into a box they'll run in through a scanner," Milam said. "The second chance and tabulator are the same machine."

In addition to meeting the Help America Vote Act requirements to provide equipment for disabled voters, the AutoMark voting machines in New Madrid and Mississippi counties also meet HAVA's "second chance voting" requirements, Cravens said.

"That basically means that a voter can have his ballot checked to see if all contests were marked properly as far as undervoting and overvoting those contests," he said.

"Undervoting is simply when a voter chooses or mistakenly omits voting a contest -- sometimes they just skip it unintentionally," Cravens explained.

When a ballot marked by a voter is fed into an AutoMark machine, "it can detect that undervote and notify the voter that he has not voted a contest," Cravens said.

It is then up to the voter to determine whether they made a mistake or just didn't want to vote on a particular race. If it was a mistake, they can fix it before submitting the ballot.

An overvote, on the other hand, "is where they have marked their ballot for more candidates than the contest allows for -- if it's a contest for only one candidate and they mark for two, it will detect that," Cravens said.

Voters are not required to use an AutoMark to check their ballots.

Cravens said the most important thing for voters to remember is they aren't required to use the AutoMark machines -- they can still vote the same way they have in previous elections.

"I don't want to scare people away from the polls because they are apprehensive about using voting equipment they are not familiar with," Cravens said. "But the AutoMark equipment will be available in every precinct for handicapped accessibility and for the voter who wants to have the second chance opportunity."