Whereas the COVID-19 pandemic forcing officers to drastically alter how the 2020 major election was carried out, counties throughout the state utilized know-how to deal with the problem, though some have been much less desperate to make the change.
One of many greatest modifications for the election was the massive variety of absentee voters the state noticed forward of the June 9 major. In Jefferson County alone, 7,000 registered voters opted to show in an absentee poll this yr.
Nikki Painter, Jefferson County chief deputy clerk for elections, stated having up to date know-how on the polls, together with digital ballot books (versus a bodily ballot e-book system), helped immeasurably when tallying absentee voters.
“Having the digital ballot books helped merely due to the quantity of people that voted absentee,” Painter stated. “If we had had the paper ballot books, ballot employees would have needed to, earlier than polls opened, undergo and spotlight or mark each one that voted in that ballot e-book.
“With the digital ballot e-book, we don’t program them till the day earlier than they decide up provides, so early voting is full and everyone who has obtained an absentee poll has been marked. To me, it’s a cleaner file of who had really voted, and it’s very clear to the employees.”
Painter stated that, general, Jefferson County is on the reducing fringe of voting know-how proper now and is best off for it.
“We’re on the peak of what we will get,” she stated. “We have now the digital ballot books. We have now the mixture touchscreen and paper ballots so the voter can see how they voted earlier than it goes into the poll field, which is essential to the voters in our county. I don’t know of anything we will doubtlessly do sooner or later technology-wise.”
The scenario is analogous in Marion County, which used digital ballot books for the primary time within the June 9 election.
Marion Deputy County Clerk Tom Antulov stated though most of the county’s ballot employees are senior residents, they tailored to the brand new know-how pretty simply.
“[The electronic poll books] are model new, however I feel the ballot employees who have been ready to make use of them have been fairly proud of the convenience of them,” he stated. “There have been a few technical glitches, and also you’ll have that each time you’re doing one thing utterly new. … However general, I feel they have been actually good.”
Nonetheless, not each county has been in a position to spend money on the brand new know-how like Marion and Jefferson counties have. In Pocahontas County, for instance, County Clerk Melissa Bennett defined that, amongst different obstacles, the know-how is just too costly to buy in the meanwhile.
The county additionally bought upgraded voting machines for this election, and Bennett stated that officers didn’t wish to overload ballot employees throughout their coaching.
“We simply haven’t had the funds to buy them,” Bennett stated. “Final yr, once I checked into it, some counties had some points with them, so we have been simply type of ready to see if these points have been resolved. Final yr, in among the precincts, they didn’t work as nicely. We even have aged election employees, and typically it’s onerous to show them newer issues.”
Though Pocahontas County faces points with web entry and cell service because of the Greenbank Observatory blackout, Bennett stated that, when the county ultimately does get digital ballot books, these setbacks shouldn’t be a difficulty on Election Day.
“Initially, when all of that was new with the e-poll books, that’s what we felt like would could also be an issue, however my understanding with that’s they don’t have to have web entry or WiFi entry,” Bennett stated. “What (restricted cellular phone entry) does have an effect on is that now we have some precincts that should not have telephones, so due to the observatory, they will’t use a cellular phone to name in.”
Other than the digital ballot books, although, Bennett stated that Pocahontas County has already tailored to a lot of the standard election know-how. Due to social distancing, they even took benefit of the web and different companies to coach ballot employees.
“We weren’t in a position to do in-person coaching, so we needed to do on-line or by-phone small group coaching,” Bennett stated. “We had no points with that gear.”
Different counties have made the precise choice to not make the improve. Braxton County Clerk Sue Ann Rutherford stated that the ballot employees the county routinely hires would outright stop the job if new know-how was launched.
“Most of our ballot employees are older, and they’d refuse,” Rutherford stated. “We’d have a look at it sooner or later. We’re attempting to get some youthful individuals concerned, however proper now, now we have principally older (employees). If we began utilizing e-poll books, they might not be a ballot employee.”
Rutherford defined that, in Braxton County, nearly all of voters and ballot employees additionally want conventional paper ballots, and digital voting machines are solely on web site as a result of the county’s required to have them.
Due to these preferences, Rutherford stated that she’d be shocked if the county made the bounce to extra digital strategies any time quickly.
“I wouldn’t be against (switching to digital), however quite a lot of the residents need that paper,” Rutherford stated.
Fairmont Information Editor John Mark Shaver could be reached at 304-844-8485 or [email protected]