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New voting machines to be on display at W.Va. courthouses

January 25, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Berkeley County voters eager to see how the county's new touch-screen voting machines will work can now go into the county's voter registration office for a demonstration of the machines, a spokeswoman for the manufacturer of the machines said Tuesday.

And next week in Jefferson County, officials will have a touch-screen voting machine in the Jefferson County Commission chambers for voters to see, Jefferson County Clerk Jennifer Maghan said.

Someone will be in the commission chambers to help members of the public become familiar with the machines, Maghan said.

Officials are getting the word out about the new machines as they prepare for the May 9 primary election and the Nov. 7 general election.

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The machines, like ones used to order food in convenience stores, allow voters to choose candidates by a touch of the screen.

The new machines, which are being required as part of the federal Help America Vote Act, also have features that make it easier for the disabled to vote.

The machines purchased for Jefferson County allow visually impaired voters to increase the size of words on the ballot so they can be read easier, said Maghan.

The machines also have headphones, which voters can use to hear voting instructions, and voters have the capability to slow down or speed up voting instructions, Maghan said.

Voters in both counties can use the touch-screen voting machine or a paper ballot, election officials said.

West Virginia Secretary of State Betty Ireland, the state's chief elections official, has been in the Eastern Panhandle this week to answer questions about the new voting machines and Ireland was in Jefferson County Tuesday to talk about the new equipment.

In a meeting Tuesday afternoon with the Jefferson County Commission, Ireland said some people might not be happy with the new voting machines, but she predicted that voters will appreciate them once they get used to the new technology.

"As time goes on, people are going to say, 'Why did we wait so long?''' Ireland said.

Like Morgan County, Berkeley County is using Ivotronic touch-screen machines and Jefferson County is using AutoMARK machines.

In Berkeley County, the voter registration office is in the first floor of the Berkeley County Courthouse at the intersection of King and Queen streets.

The county commission chamber in Jefferson County is in the Jefferson County Courthouse at the intersection of George and Washington streets.

Besides having the machines available for demonstrations at the two courthouses, elections officials in both counties will be offering outreach programs to help voters learn about the machines.

Maghan said organizations like church groups may contact her at 304-728-3215 to schedule an informational session about the machines.

Ireland said voters also may get assistance at precincts about the machines.

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