News From Terre Haute, Indiana

April 20, 2012

Vigo County tests voting machines for next month’s primary

Howard Greninger
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — The mechanics of holding an election began Thursday, as election officials tested voting machines for the May 8 primary election.

Vigo County has 95 optical-scan voting machines that use paper ballots. The county also has 105 touch-screen machines, used for handicapped voters.

Based on a percentage set by law, 10 of the optical-scan and three of the touch-screen machines were tested with various ballots, some containing filled-in circles for all candidates and some ballots with only a few circles marked for some candidates.

“This test, open to the public, shows our equipment is counting the votes accurately and that everything has been checked and is working,” Vigo County Clerk Patricia Mansard said.

“Many counties are moving back to using the [optical-scan] machines. I think that using electronic tabulation alone, people don’t trust that,” Mansard said, “because you can’t do a recount as you will get exactly what was shown the first time.

“With a paper ballot, recounts have shown a vote total can change. The law says if you can ascertain what the voter’s intent was, the vote counts,” Mansard said.

If a voter simply draws a circle around a circle, which is required to be filled in next to a candidate’s name, a recount official could determine that the voter intended to vote for that particular candidate. A circled circle is not counted with the use of an optical-scan, Mansard said.

The clerk said interest in the election during a presidential year is higher than other election years. However, most voters turn out in the November general election, instead of the primary, where voters are required to select either a Republican or Democratic ballot, Mansard said.

“One thing that is troubling is the [two major political] parties are not filling out their ballots with candidates, so they are not giving people enough choices. I want to see a thriving democracy and see people having choices,” Mansard said.

As of Thursday, Vigo County has 74,040 registered voters for the upcoming election. There have been 365 mail-in ballots sent out, with 163 of those ballots received back. Also, there have been 36 applications to vote before a Confined Voter Board. Those boards will begin to visit homebound voters on April 25.

There have been 238 voters cast a ballot in person. Vigo County voters can cast a ballot, until election day, between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday at the Vigo County Courthouse.

“In-person voting started out great, with 40 voters the first day and 44 the second, but it has slowed down, with only eight votes cast” last Saturday, Mansard said. “I hope the [voter] turnout is higher than 25 percent” for the primary, the clerk added.

Howard Greninger can be reached at (812) 231-4204 or