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Holmes polling sites remain intact, while voting system gets a face lift

The Holmes County Board of Elections decided to retain all of its current polling sites, but the way the public will cast its vote has changed. The BOE hopes that the changes will help things flow smoothly while promoting the most accurate results possible.

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The Holmes County Board of Elections heard the pleas of the county commissioners to try to cut costs. They listened, and developed a game plan that would reduce the number of voting sites in the county. They then heard the objections of the masses, who felt that limiting the number of polling sites would create unnecessary travel for many people, causing inconveniences. They listened again.

What the BOE eventually ended up with was a compromise with the voting public’s desire to maintain its voting precincts and the commissioners’ desire to cut costs and came up with a plan that they hope will appease everyone on all fronts.

The March 2016 presidential primary election will be a step into a new direction for voters, and it is a vote that the board hopes will be made easy and convenient for voters.

After hearing feedback from the community and careful consideration and meetings with the Holmes County commissioners, the Holmes County Board of Elections voted to keep all of the current polling sites in place. In order to accomplish that, they had to order new voting equipment, since the old style of voting electronically was becoming old and outdated, and was creating questions.

“We told the county commissioners last year that we were going to need some new equipment because ours was getting old and outdated,” said Mary Shaffer of the BOE. “They took a look at the new equipment and said they couldn’t afford it. So, they asked how we could make things cheaper.”

Shaffer said the old voting computers were showing a lot of wear, and issues such as jamming paper and touch screen malfunctions were continuing to crop up on a more regular basis.

The answer was the consolidation process, one that drew many questions and concerns from the voting public. The main issue became the travel to new polling sites. Prairie Township voters would have had to travel to Millersburg to vote instead of voting in Holmesville. Paint Township voters would be forced to travel farther. In addition, Shaffer said there were a large number of concerns for the Amish voting population, many of them coming from non-Amish voters.

“There was a great deal of concern for the Amish population that wasn’t even from the Amish,” Shaffer said. “It was actually quite nice to see that many people have a concern for others.”

With the polling places remaining intact as usual, the new polling equipment will revert back to a paper form. Shaffer said voters will be given a ballot, and voters can sit at a table, between partitions, and fill out their ballot manually instead of electronically. They will then insert their filled out form into a scanner, which records their selections. The scanner will notify the voter of any irregularities and also give voters the option to alter their ballot if they choose to do so.

Shaffer said the new system is one that many people actually prefer because they feel like it is safer, and the old system was beginning to show flaws due to its age. It had also proven to be quite cumbersome to the volunteers.

“I think people will like it now because it is pen and paper, and it seems like people feel like they trust that system more,” Shaffer said. “It is going to be different, and it almost seems like we are going backwards in terms of technology, but it is something people wanted. It should actually take less time to check people in. Then it is up to the voters as to how long they want to spend on their ballot. There are privacy screens set up at the tables.”

The new voting system will be in place for the March 15 vote.

Another change will be the way voters check in. The volunteers will sign in electronically on an iPad, rather than in the bulky black books used in the past. Shaffer said that alone will speed up the process of checking in.

“It’s been tested in other counties, and they say it has cut down the check-in time significantly,” Shaffer said.

Will the new system work faster, more efficiently and most importantly, will it be accurate in its tabulating the votes that are cast? The BOE and commissioners are hoping that the cost savings and the commitment to accuracy will be exactly what the public had wanted.

With voting day having nearly arrived, it won’t take long to figure out if the new system has been worth the extra effort to appease the public. Shaffer did add that while the new system may be an improvement, it could still have a few bugs to work out, so it would not be fair for the public to make snap judgments of any kind.

Published: March 14, 2016
New Article ID: 2016703149949