Voters in West Palm Beach this past week got a taste of what residents throughout Palm Beach County will deal with at the polls when regular elections roll around.
They got the first shot at using the new optical scan voting machines.
“It worked well,” said Supervisor of Elections Arthur Anderson. “The voters found them easy to use.”
The optical scanners replace the touch-screen machines that were brought in to replace the punch-card voting apparatus that created a fiasco during the 2000 presidential election. Results were delayed for 37 days while election officials pored over ballots in an effort that was finally stopped by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The lack of a “paper trail” led U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler to file lawsuits to get rid of the touch screen machines. Finally, they were eliminated in the 15 counties that had them.
Anderson admitted it was difficult to get a good read on voter reaction with only 4,782 people – less than 8 percent of registered voters in West Palm Beach – going to the polls.
He said the poll workers “did a good job for the brief time” they had to train. Anderson said they will receive additional instruction before the upcoming elections, though the first countywide balloting will be held Aug. 26.
The election supervisor, who is up for re-election this year, said the major difficulty encountered by voters in last week’s special West Palm Beach election was inserting the ballots into the scan machine without also inserting the ballot sleeve.
“Some tried to put in both,” he said.
For the sake of privacy, voters put their ballots in a sleeve and place the end of the ballot into the scanning machine. The apparatus is supposed to pull the ballot into the county, leaving the sleeve behind.
Voters will also get training in the use of the machines. Anderson said he has prepared a DVD on how to use the apparatus.
Actually, the optical scan machines will be brought out 15 days before the Aug. 26 primaries – because that is when early voting begins.
The supervisor said he has a new procedure worked out. There will be eight early voting locations. During the 2004 election when the process was first tried, crowds jammed the polling places.
Because voters can cast ballots on paper and then feed them into the machines, people who can’t wait in line can just mark the ballot and it will be put through the machine later.
All types of Palm Beach County ballots will be available at all polling places, Anderson said, using the “print-on-demand” ballot printer.