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Paper problems, low turnout in Hancock County primary   (WV)

EMILY SCOTT    The Review    15 May 2008

NEW CUMBERLAND — Some of the electronic voting machines used in Hancock County’s primary election Tuesday were temporarily out of service due to their running out of the paper used to back up voters’ selections.

County Clerk Eleanor Straight said the paper rolls are supposed to hold the votes of about 250 voters but that some had only 90 or 100.

“People were trying a lot of different things on the voting machines,” Straight said, meaning voters may have changed their minds repeatedly. Since “every little action gets recorded,” Straight said “it uses up quite a bit of paper.”

Another factor may have been that “it was a good-sized ballot,” Straight said.

Straight said that each of the county’s 28 precincts had “a good many paper rolls” and that the paper running out in individual machines did not stop voting at any precinct. Three runners throughout the county also went to precincts reporting problems to change the paper rolls.

There was also one instance of a machine’s printer not working, but Straight said the precinct had three other functioning machines.

Straight said there were reports of voters waiting in line for more than half an hour, which Straight said may have been compounded by many people turning out all at once. “I think people just showed up all at the same time,” Straight said.

Straight said that plenty of paper will be on hand for November’s general election and that she will be looking into whether the paper rolls hold as many votes as they say they are supposed to.

While there were no emergency paper ballots on hand, Straight said that each machine has three-hour back-up battery power and that Emergency Management Director John Paul Jones located enough power generators to cover the whole county in case of a power outage.

Voter turnout was not a likely factor in the paper shortage, as only 42.9 percent of the county’s 22,276 registered voters turned out on Tuesday, which Straight said was a little below average.

9,557 ballots were cast, including 7,488 Democratic ballots, 1,814 Republican and 255 nonpartisan. Of the total ballots cast, 681 were cast early and 130 were absentee.

Straight said there are still about 30 to 40 provisional ballots that will be voted on and counted today by a committee made up of county commissioners Mike Swartzmiller and Jeff Davis and representatives from the Republican and Democratic parties.

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