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Voters in primary will pick a party
After they make ions for one party, they won't be able to do so for the other

Apr 27, 2005

Virginians who go to the polls in the June 14 primaries will have to tell a precinct official whether they want to vote Democratic or Republican. They won't be able to do both.

Typically, when the state has had a primary, it's been for one party and any voter could participate in the open primary. This year, both parties are holding primaries for statewide offices and a few local offices on the same day.

In most cases, this won't cause any problems. But difficulties may arise in the few areas that still use old-fashioned, mechanical lever machines.

The Virginia Board of Elections struggled yesterday with how to set up a ballot for them.

At one point, state election officials joined representatives of the two political parties and a voting equipment manufacturer in the hallway to sketch a ballot with the names of candidates of both parties.

Democrats won the draw to be first on top of a horizontal ballot or on the left of a vertical ballot. Four candidates are seeking the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor and two Republicans each are seeking nomination for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general.

The machines will be set up so that once a person votes for one party, he won't be able to vote for the other party.

The state last had a dual primary in 1988, when the two parties held nonbinding presidential primaries.

But the state hasn't had a dual primary for offices other than president since 1951, when a fledgling Republican Party decided to hold a primary on the same date as the traditional Democratic primary.

Also at yesterday's meeting, officials explained how the Help America Vote Act is affecting balloting in Virginia.

Congress required the state to replace the mechanical lever and punch card voting machines of hanging-chad infamy. So far, 81 of the 90 localities with these two types of machines have replaced them, mostly with touch-screen machines. Congress allocated Virginia about $30 million to buy new machines.

Virginia also is replacing its centralized voter registration equipment with a new $10.6 million system, again using federal funds. Susan McCreary, an elections board staff member, said the replacement may not be ready until after the Nov. 8 gubernatorial election.

All mechanical and punch card machines must be replaced by Jan. 1, Jensen said. Virginia is ahead of most states in implementing the program.

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