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Voting machines check out perfectly

Marian Hamilton  Cibola County Beacon  30 October 2004

CIBOLA COUNTY - Old-fashioned Cibola County voters who decide to wait until Nov. 2 to go to the polls will find themselves casting their ballots on the same old Shouptronic voting machines they have used for the past 15 years. Modern-minded early voters, however, are discovering they must vote on the new-fangled InkImpressions electronic touch-screen models. Apparently a couple of voters weren't too happy about the experience; Cibola County Clerk Eileen Martinez said her office received no complaints about the electronic machines they rented for early voting but the New Mexico Secretary of State and the Attorney General's Office did. Officials from the Secretary of State's Office sent State Police Officer William Cunningham down to the clerk's office to check things out.

"If you touch between names on the screen, you could light up the wrong name," Martinez said, "but the last screen before you vote shows you all of the candidates you chose. If you don't like any of the names you can change it then." She added that voting officials make sure each voting machine is provided with a pencil for people to touch the screen with if they have big hands or want to make sure they touch the right place each time.

When Officer Cunningham showed up, Martinez said, she invited him not only to investigate the machine but to cast his own vote on it while he was there. "He tried touching the screen with his fingers, with the pencil and with his whole hand," she explained. "As long as he didn't touch between names everything was fine, and he was able to vote without problems."

Cunningham confirmed Martinez's statements about the electronic voting machine. "The way I felt [about complaints of machine malfunction] was it was operator error," he said. "The machine worked perfect." Cunningham added, however, "They [the electronic voting machines] do take some getting used to."

Lt. Darren Solan of the Gallup State Police station said Cunningham's findings were sent on to the Secretary of State's Office. "As far as I know no irregularities were found."

Early and absentee voting is still available at the clerk's office and the Grants/Cibola County School Board meeting room on Second Street in Grants today and tomorrow. Martinez said her office will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days, while the board meeting room will be open from noon to 8 p.m. today and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. tomorrow. Regular voting on Nov. 2 will open at 7 a.m. at each of the county's 31 polling places, and close at 7 p.m.

For more information call the Cibola County Clerk's Office at 285-2535.

By Marian Hamilton

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