Voters will notice change at the polls this year

Monday, May 1, 2006

Tuesday will be primary election day with the polls open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

This off-year primary election will greet voters with a few changes.

This will be first election for Greene County voters to use electronic voting machines. The county was the last in the state to cease using the old lever-type machines. A new $306,000 system is in place and ready to go, according to clerk Tom Franklin.

Franklin said voter registration clerks Marjorie Cullison and Susan Fowler have conducted more than 80 voter machine demonstrations throughout the county to civic, church and community groups to explain the operation of the machines.

The clerk/voter registration office conducted training sessions Friday and Saturday for election workers to review the new machines and regulations changes.

Franklin said he realizes the electronic machines are different than voters are accustomed to, but they are simple to operate.

"If we can get people to try them the first time ... We've been getting exceptional response from everybody who has the machines demonstrated to them. They are very simple," he said. "I know some people are leery of any change, but if they'll just have faith in themselves to try them one time, I think they are going to be astounded at how simple they are to use."

A state or federal government issued photo identification card will be required for anyone casting a ballot. If they do not have a valid ID card that contains an expiration date that is no earlier than November 2004, then they will be able to vote on a provisional ballot -- which will be held and not tabulated until proper identification can be verified by the county clerk's office. Active military identification cards also will be accepted and no expiration date is required.

"Driver's license will be the most common (ID) used," Franklin said. "If they don't have a driver's licenes, the license branches (in Linton and Bloomfield) will be open extended hours today (until 7 p.m.) and tomorrow. On Tuesday, they will be open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. If somebody can not afford to go get an ID card all they have to do is walk in and say they want an ID card will voting and the license branch can not charge them."

Franklin reminds voters they will still need to take documentation to the license branch -- including a birth certificate and a utility bill that shows a name and residential address -- in order to be issued an ID card.

Election results will be available after the polls close in a much hastier manner and can be accessed online at www.clerkgreenecounty.com.

The clerk anticipates that results will begin being posted on the Web site shortly after the polls close at 6 p.m. and should be complete by 8 p.m.

However, Franklin stressed that official results won't be available until after noon on May 12 -- after the impounded provisional ballots are counted.

The clerk said this could be a factor in a close race.

"If there is a very close race and we have very many provisional ballots, those provisional ballots can not be counted until May 12 so we are hoping that everybody will take their IDs to the polls. We don't want to wait until May 12. It's unfair to the candidates involved as well as to the voters to have to wait 10 days until after the election to find out who won," he said.

Several new voting locations are being used for the first time to comply with federally-mandated Help America Vote Act (HAVA) regulations that make all voting sites handicapped accessible.

The clerk believes there will be few problems linked to new voting locations. He said an effort has been made to get the word out about any changes. Also, if anyone shows up at the wrong voting site, each location will have a complete voter registration file available and they can easily look up a name that shows the correct voting location.

"The only one I am not happy with is in Stafford Township where we had to move the polling place out of the township into White River Valley-Lyons (Elementary) School. That was unavoidable because there was no suitable locations in Stafford Township," Franklin stated.

Franklin said it's very difficult to gauge how heavy voter turnout will be for this year's primary.

"I don't know what to expect," Franklin said. "I think different areas (of the county) are going to show higher turnouts and in some areas there will be very low turnouts. We have about four races that I think will generate some interest -- the sheriff's race on each ticket, the county council District 1 race on the Republican ticket, the Democrat recorder's race and the coroner's race on the Republican ticket. I think it's going to be hard to anticipate what to expect."

The clerk reported that absentee voting in Stockton and Richland townships have been heavier than the rest of the county.

Franklin said he doesn't put much stock in weather conditions being a major factor in either keeping people away from the polls or causing them to flock to the voting booths in greater numbers.

"I've heard for the last 20 years that when the weather is good, everybody comes out to vote. If the weather is bad, Republicans turnout better than Democrats. But in a primary election where Democrats are running against Democrats and Republicans running against Republicans, I don't see that as being any kind of a factor at all. I think if people have an interest in one of the races, they are going to come out regardless of what the weather is."

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