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County will return to paper ballots for voting

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By Calen McKinney

Taylor County residents will cast their votes this November on paper rather than on a voting machine.

In February, Taylor County magistrates accepted $90,000 in federal grant money to purchase new voting equipment. The grant is part of the Help America Vote Act through which the federal government issued funds to the states to be disbursed to counties at the state's discretion.

Taylor County Clerk Mark Carney addressed Taylor Fiscal Court about the use of the grant money at Tuesday night's regular meeting.

Carney told magistrates that Hardin County election officials used paper ballots in the May Primary Election and seemed pleased with the results.

He said the new paper scanner will allow precinct workers to use only one ballot counting system instead of the two currently used.

One system is used with older voting machines, he said, while another is used with the County's new voting machines purchased nearly two years ago.

On Wednesday, Carney said the older voting machines, which are more than 20 years old, will no longer be used. He said the County might be able to recycle part of the machines.

Carney asked magistrates to allow the Board of Elections to advertise for bids to purchase paper ballot scanners to be bought with the $90,000 grant money.

He said bids would be advertised for two weeks. Magistrates unanimously approved Carney's request.

In April, Carney told magistrates that voters can use paper ballots to mark their votes and then scan them into a machine. The ballot can be scanned upside down, he said, and a person's vote will still be counted.

"I think it will be a good idea," he said.

Paper ballots will give election officials a hard copy of each vote cast in case a candidate requests a re-count, Carney said.

Though most people would use the paper ballots, he said, individuals who are blind, handicapped or anyone who wants to may still use the actual voting machines.

Carney said the paper ballots operate on the same electronic system as the new voting machines, eliminating the need for a program to merge the two types of technology used with current voting machines.

Carney said the paper ballots will help ease voting lines by allowing many more people to vote at the same time. While it may take longer for a person to vote, he said, the time waiting to vote will be less.

He said paper ballots are the easiest way for a large county to vote and Jefferson County has used them for several years.

Carney predicts a large turnout for the November election - which will include the U.S. presidential race - and said it would be a good time for a large number of people to use the new voting system.

He said the paper ballots will allow voters to cast their votes for write-in candidates much more easily.

Carney said some people may wonder why the County is going back to paper ballots, something that was used several years ago and then abandoned.

He said the paper ballots will be used in conjunction with scanner technology, however, to recognize and count votes.

"I'm excited about it," he said.

- Staff Writer Calen McKinney can be reached at 465-8111 Ext. 235 or by e-mail at reporter@cknj.com. Comment on this story at www.cknj.com.