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New tools slated for '06 election

By CAMERON MATHEWS   Fort Morgan Times   02 November 2005

As the ballot-counting process was a timely one Tuesday night in the County administration building, county clerks experienced some mechanical shutdowns and scanning glitches which tacked on some extra time for when the election results were to be released.

As the results were originally planned to be released around 9 p.m. Tuesday, it wasn't until 4 a.m. that all ballots were counted and verified, stated County Clerk Connie Ingmire.

Results were posted on the Morgan County Web site at about 7:30 a.m. Ingmire was reported to have not left the building until 4:30 a.m.

Chunks and chunks of ballots were turned in at the last minute, said Ingmire.

Several people could be seen sifting through mailed-in ballots getting them prepared for the final count. The process might have gone a bit quicker if the office wasn't dealing with a new signature verification part of the counting process, Ingmire said.

Once the ballots were turned in by the 7 p.m. deadline Tuesday, they were scanned on their bar codes for a tally of how many people in Morgan County voted. After they were scanned, the ballots were transferred by hand into a separate room where each was checked for signature verification.

Ingmire said the ballots were run through the scanner capturing the signatures as they each passed through the machine.

As the county clerks office sent out 13,435 ballots, approximately 120 to 150 ballots were thrown away by various Morgan residents because they considered them to be "election trash," stated Ingmire. Most of the ballots were turned in Monday and Tuesday at the last minute as well. There were 7,715 people who voted, 57 percent of those registered, which Ingmire considered a very good turnout. 5,720 people didn't vote.

The ballot counting machine used by the clerks, called the AIS 115, had to be "tweaked" every so often because a belt that helped run the machine would get warm and too tight which caused it to run slower than normal.

The AIS 115 machine, which has been used since 1992 to tally the total number of votes received, is simply outdated, stated Ingmire.

"The election judges definitely had their hands full this year," Ingmire said.

A total of 13 other counties currently use the AIS 115 machine as well, and Ingmire stated that there is a 95 percent chance that it will not be re-certified next year.

New interactive equipment is slated to be purchased and used in the 2006 election. Although each new projected piece of equipment will be relatively expensive to buy, Ingmire said the town is in dire need of a new system. A disabled access unit (DAU) is one of the four new tools that is planned to come to fruition sometime next year. It resembles a Palm Pilot in that it is a hand-held device that allows for easy voting and is accessible for traveling purposes.

The eSlate, which closely resembles that of the DAU and is slightly lighter, is another voting option that would allow voters to vote in the privacy of their own homes or when on the road. Both tools are lightweight, durable and easy to set up, use and break down.

A new judge's booth controller (JBC) is the third tool the county clerk office hopes to provide voters in 2006. It is 13 inches long and weighs six pounds. With a fully functional keyboard and clear screen attached, it will be yet another easy voting tool for Morgan residents.

The last, and probably most efficient, tool planned to hit Morgan County will be the stored voting booth. The booth will allow voters to go in to one of the several precincts around Morgan County and vote, which could knock down voting time while the drawback might be longer lines. All voting booths will be handicapped accessible to allow every single person to vote, state Ingmire.

One more piece of equipment, called help America vote (HAVA), will be direct recording equipment where people can vote in every precinct. All equipment is necessary, stated Ingmire, because the old machines the office has been using for so long might soon not be accepted in the state of Colorado because they are outdated.

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