05/03/06 — Turnout low for Wayne primary

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Turnout low for Wayne primary

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on May 3, 2006 1:48 PM

Despite using new voting machines for the first time, Wayne County Board of Elections officials said Tuesday's primary election ran smoothly.

A precinct official at Goldsboro Wesleyan Church had a problem with one of the new voting machines shortly after the polls opened, but Wayne County Board of Elections Director Gary Sims said the machine was replaced immediately, and no further problems occurred.

The county purchased new ballot counters and voting machines for blind, illiterate and handicapped voters earlier this year from Omaha, Neb.-based Election Systems & Software. Two representatives from ES&S came to Wayne County to assist precinct officials during the primary.

State officials had ordered many counties to buy new voting equipment that would produce a paper record of votes to verify results.

Usually, when a voting machine doesn't work properly during an election, Sims said he or the precinct official would turn off the machine and restart it. Instead, with company representatives on hand, Sims said he replaced the machine with a backup and had the company representatives take a firsthand look at it.

Voter turnout was poor, as it was across much of the state. Only about 10 percent of the registered voters in Wayne, or about 6,500 people, went to the polls.

"I think that'll be the headlines across the state from the smallest to the largest counties," Sims said.

"You always prepare for a full turnout and, when you don't get it, it's a disappointment. The fact is, if they're not interested in going to the polls, they're not going to go," he said.

Sims said he believes Wayne voters didn't go to the polls in larger numbers because of the limited number of county contests on the ballot.

Once the polls closed at 7:30 p.m., Sims said the process began for Board of Elections officials to prepare for the canvass on May 9 at 11 a.m. In the next week, staff and board members will begin verifying the paper tapes from the voting machines.

Many voters saw the ES&S Model 100 precinct ballot counter firsthand. After filling in an oval next to a candidate's name, voters fed the ballot into the machine for the vote to be recorded.

If a person marked too many or too few candidates on the ballot, the machine alerts the voter and precinct official of the problem. The machine also accepts the ballot if it is placed into the machine upside down, backwards or if the ballot has been crumpled.

Wayne County Elections board member Joe Daughtery said the board would determine whether to count the nearly 40 provisional ballots on Monday. The board will also conduct a mandated recount of two precincts chosen at random by state officials.

A canvass of the vote will be held next Tuesday, when vote totals will be made official.

If there is was an error in vote count, an irregularity or misconduct during the primary, the person can fill out a election protest at the Board of Elections office at 209 S. William St., but people protesting because they are unhappy with the results should not fill out a protest form, Sims said.