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Clerk: Voting Machines Not Accessible
By Mary L. Crider

County Clerk Doris Tate told the Sebastian County Election Commission she will refer a handicap accessibility problem with the new voting machines to Secretary of State Charlie Daniels.

The new electronic iVotronics voting machines supplied by Election Systems and Software are not user-friendly for the visually or hearing impaired, she said.

During the primary election, she said, a visually impaired voter became frustrated when he had difficulty following the lengthy and complicated screen navigation instructions.

The navigation buttons are marked in Braille as well as by various shapes and colors. Voters can read the instructions on the screen or can listen to them via an audio headset, Election Coordinator Jerry Huff said.

The apparent problem is in that the audio step-by-step navigation instructions given before the ballot appears on the screen are lengthy and spoken quickly, making them difficult to retain, particularly the first time a voter uses the new equipment, Huff pointed out.

“All we can do is change the ballot; we can’t change the instructions,” Huff said.

The general election is Nov. 7.

In other business, the commission approved raising the polling site judges’ salaries from $75 to $100 a day, putting them in line with the salaries paid judges elsewhere. There is one judge per polling site.

Sebastian County has 48 polling sites, Huff said. The judges work from the poll’s open at 7:30 a.m. until the vote is tallied, often late at night.

Commissioner Rex Terry said he had no problem raising the judges’ salaries, but he thinks Sebastian County has too many polling places.

Huff said the commission reduced the number of sites from 52 to 48 this year, and plans to reduce them further in 2007. Garland County, which has the same number of registered voters as Sebastian County, has 40 polling places, he said. The county has about 67,000 voters, he said.

The commission also approved placing five pollworkers at each polling place, six at those with the historically heaviest voter traffic.

Huff said the court-ordered Sept. 10 Buddhist Temple election for which the Election Commission supplied two voting machines and four pollworkers had a heavy turnout. There were 629 registered voters and almost 800 provisional voters in the election. The results were sealed and have been turned over to the court, pending an order to unseal them, Huff said.

Members of the temple have been battling in court since June 2005 for control of Wat Buddha Samakitham. The temple agreed to pay $1,000 to rent the voting machines and fees for any personnel needed to help run the election.

Some temple members filed suit in Sebastian County Circuit Court against temple Abbot Phra Sangob Parisanto and several other temple members, alleging they were trying to wrest control from the elected board, violating the temple’s 1989 bylaws. The abbot and 11 others filed a counter suit, alleging the plaintiffs in the original suit were violating 1992 bylaws that superseded the 1989 bylaws.

In May, Circuit Judge James Marschewski ruled the 1989 bylaws were the valid bylaws, and he ordered an election to choose a new seven-member board.


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