04/14/06 — No problems on first day of early voting

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No problems on first day of early voting

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on April 14, 2006 1:47 PM

Thursday was a day of firsts for the Wayne County Board of Elections -- the first day of early one-stop voting for residents and the first time voters could use the county's new voting machines.

It was also the first time in many years Wayne County resident Alexander Bell, 62, cast his ballot without assistance, thanks to the Election Systems & Software AutoMARK voter assist terminal purchased by the county.

Since being injured in combat during the Vietnam War, Bell said his eyesight has been limited, making it difficult to read the ballot each year. The county purchased AutoMARK machines for people like Bell and others who are visually impaired, illiterate or unable to cast a ballot without assistance.

As Bell approached the machine, Board of Elections workers and volunteers explained to him how to use it. Bell placed the headphones on his ears and listened to the candidate's name. When he heard the candidate he wanted to vote for, Bell pushed a button and his selection was complete.

"I like the machine. That was pretty good," he said after casting his ballot.

About 80 other registered voters joined Bell at the polls Thursday to begin one-stop early voting in Wayne County. The polls will be closed today because of Good Friday, but will be open again on Monday. The polls will be open at the county's Board of Elections office, located at 209 S. William St., Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. On April 29, the polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. for the last day of one-stop voting.

Those who are unable to enter the office to cast a ballot can still participate through curbside voting. Volunteers will be watching for those voters. When a curbside voter pulls up, Wayne County Board of Elections Director Gary Sims said a volunteer will go to the car, get the person's information and provide that person with a ballot.

Others who cannot be at the polls in May can mail in a request for an absentee ballot. Sims said the person needs to provide his or her name, address and signature on the request to get the ballot.

As for the voters who came to the Board of Elections office Thursday, Sims said he couldn't have asked for a better day.

"So far, it's been perfect. I don't want to jinx myself on the first day, but this has been going well," he said.

If the new machines were to break, Sims said he would rather have them break on the first day. Luckily for him and his staff, that was not the case.

"I think this is pretty exciting. The first voters in Wayne County got to use a new generation of machines," he said.

For more one-stop early voting or primary election information, call the Board of Elections office at 731-1411.