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Machines get a winning vote in primary election tests

May 05, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

EASTERN PANHANDLE, W.Va. - West Virginia's primary election process is heading into the final stretch, and the tabulating equipment is ready to go.

On Tuesday morning, Jefferson County election officials tested their tabulating equipment during a procedure that took about an hour and a half, said Debbie Pittinger, deputy clerk in the Jefferson County Clerk's Office.

In the test, a deck of ballots was fed through a tabulating machine to make sure it was counting accurately, Pittinger said.

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The equipment passed the test, meaning it is ready for Tuesday's primary election.

A variety of local, state and federal races will be on the ballot. Voters also will vote on bond issues, including a $19 million bond issue in Jefferson County, which school officials say is needed to help build a second high school and renovate Jefferson High School.

An early voting program started April 21, Pittinger said.

Voters have been extended the opportunity to vote early at the Jefferson County Courthouse. After giving their name and address, voters are taken to a voting booth where they can make their selections, Pittinger said.

The early voting program was implemented by the state Legislature in 2001 and is meant to make voting more convenient for residents, election officials said.

Pittinger said the early voting program is especially convenient for area commuters who may not have the time to vote on election day.

Pittinger said about 125 people voted in the first week of the program, which she considered slow.

Early voting extends until this Saturday.

The ballots from early voting will not be counted until election night, Pittinger said.

On Tuesday, polls open at 6:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m.

In Berkeley County, officials tested the county's electronic tabulating machine, which sorts, counts and prints out results by precinct, said Bonnie Woodfall, supervisor of the county's Voter Registration office.

Woodfall said a mercury switch on the machine was bad and needs to be replaced. The machine, which is rented to the county, will be tested again after the switch is replaced. It also will be tested on election day and before the canvass begins on May 14, she said.

The county will not have any electronic voting machines. Although originally one electronic voting machine was to be in place in each of the county's 59 precincts for hearing and visually impaired voters, a lack of funds prevented that, Woodfall said.

As in the past, voters will continue to use a punch card system, she said.

Staff writer Candice Bosely contributed to this story.

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