Voting machines get first true run

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 9, 2007

VIDALIA — The number of candidates in the field for the Oct. 20 parish election is pretty much par-for-the-course, but the election will mark some changes from previous ones, officials said.

Though the upcoming primary election is not the first one in which the new electronic machines will be used, it is the first major election for the machines, Concordia Parish Chief Deputy Clerk of Court Rebecca Zerby said.

The machines were used in were the July proposition election and the special election in which Rep. Andy Anders was elected to fill the state House of Representatives term vacated by Secretary of Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Bryant Hammett, Zerby said.

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“Those previous elections were good practice for us,” she said. “During the special election, one of the machines froze up, but after an hour it started cranking out again.”

Because some may still be unfamiliar with the new touch-screen machines, the clerk of court’s office hopes to get the state to send a machine to the courthouse so citizens can familiarize themselves with it before the election, Zerby said.

“It will give them a chance to come to the courthouse and learn how to use the machines, to find out how they work,” she said.

Instead of having to count votes like was necessary with the old mechanical machines, once the elections end the Clerk of Court’s office will be able to extract an electronic card from the machine, place it in a special card reader and send the results instantly to the Secretary of State’s office, Zerby said.

“There is no way anyone could tamper with them,” she said.

The new electronic system will also change the way candidates spend election night, Zerby said.

“Before, candidates and their families and supporters would all be at the courthouse, but now they can be at their homes or parties and watch the results live from the Secretary of State’s Web site,” she said.

The clerk’s office wants to train more election commissioners, and Zerby said a training session will be at the courthouse Tuesday for those who are interested.

When it comes time to choose election commissioners, they will be selected at random, she said.

The clerk of court’s office can be contacted at 318-336-4204.