News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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February 10, 2014

Voting center demo round

Residents get a close-up

TERRE HAUTE — Abe Lincoln or George Washington? Andy Taylor or Barney Fife? Jimmy Kimmel or David Letterman?

These were just a few of the choices on a practice ballot Monday night at the Ryves Youth Center where voters got a chance to try out Vigo County’s new electronic, touch-screen voting equipment.

Among other things, the new machines alert voters to “undervotes” – when you don’t cast a vote you were allowed to cast – and don’t allow “overvotes” – when you vote for more candidates than you are supposed to.

The equipment is also designed to work in any location, so, using new vote centers, Vigo County voters can vote at any of 18 sites. The equipment also alerts all vote centers when you have voted, so you can’t vote more than once.

Those are just some of the bells and whistles on the new equipment, which will get its maiden run in the upcoming May 6 primary. Several vote centers will be open a full week before election day. Voting will be available at the Courthouse beginning April 8 and at the Vigo County Annex April 21.

The vote centers will be accessible only to voters from Vigo County.

The equipment combines electronic, touch-screen voting with the old paper ballot system. After you’ve finished voting, the machine spits out a recipe-sized copy of your ballot, which you then insert into a machine that counts all the votes.

“They’re pretty slick machines,” said Mary Rider, chief deputy in the Vigo County Clerk’s Office. Rider demonstrated the new equipment and invited Ryves Hall neighborhood folks to test it out. About a dozen did, using a demonstration ballot that asked questions such as “Favorite Late Night Comedian” and allowed voters to select between Abe Lincoln and George Washington for president.

“It was pretty cool,” said Shauna Cox, who is experienced with the county’s former paper ballot system. “I think this is easier,” she said.

Under the new system, a voter will need to show an officially approved identification, which will then determine his or her precinct. Some races are only for voters in specific locations, meaning a voter’s place of residence and official precinct remains important, despite the ability to vote at any vote center.

Statistics show that in counties where vote centers are used, voter turnout improves, Rider said. However, members of the Ryves Neighborhood Association, which hosted Monday night’s demonstration, were concerned that their center was not selected as a vote center. That’s something the association would like to change in future years, said Paul Conches, association president. There are several elderly and low-income people in the neighborhood who might have difficulty getting to a distant vote center, he said. Rider noted that those people can contact the clerk’s office and ask for an absentee ballot, which will be mailed to them.

Vote center locations are determined for the primary and general election this year, Rider said. If problems develop at any of the centers, a new location could be selected in future years, she said. However, it is the goal of the Clerk’s Office to keep the vote centers from changing locations whenever possible to avoid confusion, she said.

Vote center locations are determined for the primary and general election this year, Rider said. If problems develop at any of the centers, a new location could be selected in future years, she said. However, it is the goal of the Clerk’s Office to keep the vote centers from changing locations whenever possible to avoid confusion, she said.

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