Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Early voting begins next week

County says new ballot scanners will provide prompt results

Express Staff Writer

    Early voting for this fall’s general election in Blaine County will be held from Oct. 14-31 at the old courthouse building in Hailey. Hours will be Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., beginning the day after the Columbus Day holiday.
    County Clerk JoLynn Drage said she has been assured that the courthouse, which is undergoing a roof replacement, will be open for voting by that date.
    The Blaine County Elections Office has been mailing absentee ballots since Sept. 19. An application form is available on the county’s website. Click on “County departments,” then “Elections.”
    Anyone who has lived in Blaine County for at least 30 days is eligible to vote. Registration is permanent as long as a voter casts a ballot at least once every four years in a primary or general election. Anyone who changes his or her address or name needs to re-register. Voters may register at the polls on Election Day by providing proof of residence and a photo identification.
    In 2008, the county switched from punch-card ballots to paper ballots counted by an optical scanner. During the last primary election on May 20, the scanner jammed and then stopped counting ballots. The remaining ballots were counted at the Twin Falls County Elections Department, but the malfunction caused a delay in determining election results.
    This summer, the county obtained new ballot scanners that will be installed at each polling place. Previously, ballots from each precinct were taken to the county courthouse for scanning.
    “Having tabulators in each precinct will give Blaine County the ability to release election results hours earlier than before,” Drage said. “This reduces the amount of work required on election night for the benefit of both the county and the public. Candidates will now receive results shortly after polls are closed.”
    Drage said the DS200 ballot scanners and vote tabulators from Election Systems & Software cost a total of $95,000 including trade-in of the old scanners.
    For voters, the DS200 makes casting a ballot a breeze, Drage said. A voter inserts a paper ballot in any direction into the DS200, and the device quickly scans both sides of each ballot and confirms that the vote has been counted. Drage said several layers of system security ensure the privacy of each voter. She said the scanning process is simple and will not increase waiting times for voters.
    The county Elections Office will hold a demonstration of the how the scanners work at an as-yet-to-be-determined date before Election Day on Tuesday, Nov. 4. In addition to the demonstration, the Clerk’s Office will have a DS200 unit available during office hours for anyone who wants to learn more about the system.

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