Harrison County Switches Back To Old Voting System

Newer isn't always better. The Harrison County Board of Supervisors has decided the new touch screen voting system isn't worth the hassle, the expense, or the nightmare it would create in a contested election. The board voted Monday to revert back to scanning machines on the recommendation of Circuit Clerk Gayle Parker.

There are several reasons why Parker is no fan of the touch screen system. She says she'd rather stick to what works well than sit on the cutting edge of technology under a flawed system.

"We have to rely completely on the Secretary of State's office for the ballot and everything," Parker told supervisor.

Parker says the touch screen voting machines the Secretary of State called 'user friendly' are anything but. Parker calls the system "a headache" and says the problems begin long before election day.

"Everything is done up at the state," said Parker. "We were proof reading our ballots and it took us three times to get the proof reading right on the ballot. One candidate was left completely off. As far as the absentee ballots, we didn't get those until 10 days before the election and we're supposed to have them 45 days out from the election."

During last year's primary and general elections there were plenty of problems. Parker says poll workers were up at 1:30 a.m. compiling results.

"We had a lot of problems with the paper jamming last year, as well as the batteries going out," said Parker. "The poll workers just don't like them. If we have a contested election, we're not going to have a paper ballot to be able to rely on."

Harrison County would have to buy another 100 touch screen machines to have enough for the upcoming party primary elections. Parker says that, plus supplies, would cost the county $400,000. Going back to the scan machines would cost $250,000.

District 3 Supervisor Marlin Ladner said he saw no problem with the previous system.

"You had the technology and it was simple technology. It did your counting and I didn't see any problem with it."

Gayle Parker said, "We would rather go back to the old. The board just approved. We had the fill in the oval and if there's a contested election you've got a ballot to count."

The state turned to the touch screen machines to comply with the Help America Vote Act. Gayle Parker says the county will continue to use touch screen for people who need handicap accessible voting.

WLOX asked Secretary of State Eric Clark's office about the problems Harrison County officials had with the voting machines.

Clark's office said, "We have had no reports from Harrison County of any problems, either from the 2006 Primary Election, the 2006 General Election, or the 2006 Special Election."

Sharon Walsh, Circuit Clerk of Amite County and president of the state circuit clerks association says she can see how the machines would be a financial burden for larger counties. The machines cost about $3,200 a piece and that's not including the printers, canisters and other supplies needed.