Board of Elections to hold open house

ELECTION EQUIPMENT — The Jefferson County Board of Elections will host an open house from 9:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday at its offices on the first floor of the Towers, 500 Market St., so voters can check out the new paper-ballot voting equipment. Mandi Wright, a board of elections worker, tests a scanner, which tabulates the choices of the voter.

STEUBENVILLE — Voters in Jefferson County are invited to attend an open house at the Jefferson County Board of Elections from 9:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday to take a test drive of the new paper-ballot voting equipment, which will be used for the first time countywide in the Nov. 5 general election.

The board of elections offices are located on the first floor of the Towers, 500 Market St.

Diane Gribble, board of elections director, said only seven precincts were open in the May primary election, and voter turnout was low in those precincts, when the paper-ballot machines were first used.

“Not a lot of people have had an opportunity to try them,” Gribble said.

The paper-ballot system replaces the touch-screen machines voters have been using since 2005. The county received $806,000 in funding from the state to purchase the system.

The board of elections noted the entire new system was purchased with state funding, and no county money was needed.

The paper-ballot system is easy to use, Gribble said.

A voter will fill in an oval circle next to a candidate’s name or for a levy or issue. The voter will then put the ballot through an optical scanner, which will tabulate the voter’s choices. The ballot will be scanned into memory and then drop into a secure box on the other end of the scanner. Gribble said the scanners are sensitive and will recognize any mark within the oval.

USB flash drives on the scanners will be brought to the board of elections office where the flash drives will be installed into the main tabulation computers. The old system had about 300 election cards which had to be uploaded to the tabulation computers at the board of elections. The new system will only have 50 flash drives.

Gribble said election results should be available more quickly with the new system. She said poll workers still will have to drive to the board of elections office from the precincts.

Gribble said there will be sample ballots for voters to use at the open house.

“It will be a good chance for people to use the system,” she said. “They can vote and put the ballot through the scanner, and see how the whole process works. We want as many people as possible to come out and try it. It is always better to get hands-on experience before they have to use it on election day.”

Gribble said the scanner will alert the voter if they have over voted, meaning they have marked more than the maximum number of candidates. The scanner will not alert a voter if he or she intentionally or accidentally did not cast a ballot in a race or for an issue. It also will not inform the voter if he or she voted for only one candidate when they could have voted for more than one candidate. The scanner will alert the voter if he or she does not mark any ovals on the ballot.

“It is important for voters to carefully read the ballot and instructions on the number of candidates to elect in each race,” Gribble said.

If a race has one or more write-in candidates, there will be a blank line for the voter to write in the candidate’s name.

Voters who want to cast in-person absentee ballots at the board of elections must bring in some form of identification, just like voters at the polling places on election day, Gribble said.

There are 71 precincts in the county at 38 location.

Gribble said the board of elections is seeking poll workers for election day. Interested people can come to the open house to make application or can call the board’s office at (740) 283-8522.

The last day to register to vote in the Nov. 5 general election is Oct. 7.

The primary election next year will be held on March 17. Candidate petitions and issues must be filed at the board of elections by Dec. 18.