Election machines work fine in county

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 21, 2003

Lawrence County's voters do not have to worry about hanging chads or a recall election when they hit the polls on Nov. 4, according to the Lawrence County Board of Elections.

Part of the recent election fiascoes in Florida and California have been blamed on the voting machines, but that should not be a problem here.

As far as Mary Wipert, director of the Board of Elections, is concerned, the current system works fine and has done so for nearly 25 years.

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"We love the punch-card system. There is nothing wrong with it," said Wipert, a 19-year member of the board. "Voters can take the card out to see who they voted for. People just do not want to take responsibility for their ballot."

Lawrence County has used the punch-card machines since 1978. The county has 325 voting machines and the punch cards are also used for the absentee ballots, she said.

At least six other counties in the state still use the system, including Hamilton, Delaware and Scioto counties, Wipert said.

"I have not spoken to a board of elections in the state that doesn't like the punch-card system," Wipert said.

Several years ago, a fire levy in Elizabeth Township failed by a single vote. After conducting a recount, the count remained the same and the levy still failed by one vote, she said.

"There is no such thing as a perfect voting system," Wipert said. "If you don't look at the ballot, it is your fault."

Ironton resident Hilda Davidson has been a Lawrence County voter ever since she became legal voting age. As she will turn 80 later this year, she has seen her fair share of elections and used the punch-card machines many times.

"I have never had any problems with the machines," she said. "I can see where maybe someone could get confused. I don't think the use of the machines is a problem. There are some procedures that could cause some problems."

Overall, Davidson said the biggest hurdle she sees to the city's electoral process is not the machines, but the people themselves.

"I am disappointed in the population of the city that complains about how bad things are, but won't get out and try to change things by voting," she said.

One of the reasons Wipert thinks the elections go well in the county is because the board is operated by representatives from both parties. Poll workers remind voters to check their ballot, and ask them if they remembered to do so when they are done voting.

If they made a mistake, voters can ask for another ballot and have three chances to make sure their vote is recorded correctly, she said.

In June 2002, Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell told the county board that he would like to eliminate punch cards and install a new touch-pad voting system by the primary in March 2004.

Funding issues may have delayed that plan, but new machines may be in place by the general election in November 2004.