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Machines may boost turnout
By JOHN REZANKA — News Reporter

While the presidential primary results were basically decided before Illinois residents even got the chance to vote, a new optical-scan voting system and local referenda could boost voter turnout in La Salle County.

La Salle County Clerk Mary Jane Wilkinson said she is hopeful voter turnout in the county could hit 30 percent for the 2004 primary election.

Voter turnout in the county came in at only 23 percent during both the 2000 and 2002 presidential primaries. Also, since the presidential primary results are pretty much decided at this point, some prospective voters may decide to stay at home on Tuesday.

“I’m fully aware, because of the outcome of previous primary elections, that it’s pretty much assured who presidential nominees will be for both parties,” Wilkinson acknowledged. “I do think that will effect the turnout and keep the number of voters down.”

Despite those factors, the county clerk stands by her prediction for a better turnout than the previous two primary elections.

“We hope there’s a lot of interest in the public to learn how the new voting system works,” she explained. “We want people to get familiar with the machines so they feel confident using them in the November election.”

In addition to the curiosity factor provided by the new voting machines, Wilkinson noted that there seems to be a lot of interest in the candidates for U.S. Senate. Also, in some areas of the county, she expect local referenda will draw voters to the polls.

The new system

Instructions about how to use the new voting system are posted on the clerk’s Web site at www.lasallecounty.org, and instructions will also be available in the voting booths on election day.

With the new system, voters darken circles next to candidates’ names on a paper ballot, and feed the ballot into a scanner, which reads and records the choices. The machines also will notify voters if they overvoted.

Tabulators will scan the ballots and count the votes at each of the polling places. After the polls close on election day, many of the 128 precincts will download results by modem from regional sites throughout the county directly to the county’s central accumulation center.

The names of the candidates and the referenda questions will appear on both sides of partisan ballots, Wilkinson reminded voters. As always, voters who do not a policital party during the primary will still be able to vote on the referenda issues within there voting districts.

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