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Fast vote count in Jefferson County votes a surprise

May 15, 2008|By DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- Local residents and officials were stunned Tuesday night when they realized how quickly all of the votes from the primary election in Jefferson County had been tabulated.

Jefferson County has had various voting problems in recent years, including people voting in the wrong precincts and equipment not working properly.

In the general election in 2006, it took Jefferson County election officials until 5 a.m. to tabulate votes, while Morgan and Berkeley counties were finished by midnight.

Jefferson County Clerk Jennifer Maghan, who oversees voting in the county, said before Tuesday's election that she hoped new tabulating equipment available for the election would greatly speed up vote counting.

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The county government now has 33 machines known as M100s, which Maghan hoped would eliminate any slow tabulating.

Ballots fed into the M100 at each precinct record the votes onto a data card, Maghan said. The data card then is taken to the Jefferson County Courthouse, where the information is blended with running vote totals "within seconds," Maghan said.

After polls closed at the county's 31 precincts Tuesday night, voting officials began handing out precinct-by-precinct vote totals to the large crowd gathered inside, which is traditional.

Voting officials then announced shortly before 10 p.m. that all of the votes had been counted.

A report listing the final outcomes of all of the races was distributed about 10 p.m.

Jefferson County Commissioner Dale Manuel, who was in the crowd, said he never has seen vote totals available that early.

Maghan was beaming at the successful evening.

"I said we would be home by the 11 o'clock news," Maghan said.

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