Local officials learning from historic election

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 11, 2000

As all eyes are turned toward Florida and the problems with ballots there, local election officials say there is much to be learned from this week’s historic presidential election.

&uot;I’m sure when I go to circuit clerk school in January, we’ll be talking about this (election) a lot,&uot; M.L. &uot;Binkey&uot; Vines, Adams County Circuit Clerk, said.

Though he is pleased with the way the election went in Adams County — calling it a &uot;100 percent success&uot; — Vines said every election serves as learning experience on what better to do next time.

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Adams County did have its share of problems, however, ranging from jammed ballot machines to confusion over polling places.

Vines said he had a number of calls Tuesday from people asking where they were supposed to vote. &uot;It’s confusing because they vote one place in city elections and vote another place for county elections,&uot; he said. &uot;I’m going to try to simplify that.&uot;

A unusually large number of spoiled ballots — votes made invalid because they were filled out incorrectly — also plagued this year’s election.

Bob Barrett, Adams County Election Commission chairman, said some voters could have been caught off-guard by the long list of presidential candidates on the ballot, but people should educate themselves before going into the voting booth.

Sample ballots posted at polling places and run in local publications can help voters familiarize themselves with the ballot, as well as the candidates, before casting their vote, Barrett said.

Both Vines and Barrett said the events taking place in Florida have amplified voter concerns locally.

&uot;The calls have been non-stop,&uot; Vines said. &uot;Call after call about what is going on with the election here? What are the election commissioners doing?&uot;

While it was the tight election that brought voters out in record numbers this election, it is the uncertain results that have voters scrutinizing the election process now. &uot;It’s the closeness that is making all the difference in the world,&uot; Barrett said.

No voting irregularities were reported in Concordia Parish, either on Election Day or on Thursday, when the Clerk of Court’s Office once again verified the totals.

In addition, the totals were all received by 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, just one-and-a-half hours after polls closed in Louisiana.

That Monday, Clerk of Court Clyde Ray Webber had predicted that it could be 10:30 or 11 p.m. Tuesday before totals were received from some outlying polling places in the largely rural parish.

One reason things went smoothly is that during the parish’s classes for election commissioners, which were held Nov. 2, employees of the Clerk of Court’s Office actually filled out sample forms with commissioners step by step.

&uot;That helped make sure they were putting the right numbers in the right squares, … and saved us time once (the totals) got here,&uot;&160;Webber said. Employees always go over such forms with commissioners, &uot;but not to this extent before.&uot;

In all, 60 percent of the parish’s 13,533 registered voters cast ballots in Tuesday’s election.