Supervisors Vote To Return To Old Voting System

There's more debate about voting machines in Harrison County. Supervisors voted Monday to seek Justice Department approval of the board's earlier decision to do away with the touch screen voting machines and go back to the old optical scan voting method.

Circuit Clerk Gayle Parker favors a return to the former system, following widespread problems with the new touch screen technology. But some officials are saying, "not so fast."

The chairman of the Democratic Executive Committee urges a "careful debate" of what he calls a "serious matter." Harry Ferguson suggested ways to work out the kinks with the new touch screen machines and address any voting problems.

The circuit clerk and Republican Chairman are not convinced.

The Circuit Clerk told supervisors the Justice Department would likely approve a return to the old system within 60 days. The chairman of the Democratic Executive Committee urged the board to reconsider.

"What we think is an alternative within the system that we now have, to continue with that system, we think there's good reasons for that," Harry Ferguson said.

Ferguson says better training of poll workers and the appointment of "key operators" at each precinct could prevent the kind of problems the county experienced with the touch screens.

"As that key operator, the opening-closing manager would know how to fix paper jams. They'd be comfortable stripping away some of the unprinted roll in the morning to make sure there's a proper first fit," Ferguson said.

"Our paper trail, we went out and pulled it after this election. Where they were jamming, the numbers were smeared. You couldn't read the numbers. And we're concerned about that if we have a contested election in this county," Circuit Clerk Gayle Parker said.

"Reality is at some point I know we're going to get back to the touch screens. We have to. That's called progress," District 4 Supervisor William Martin said.

"I always would assume that voting should be efficient, simple and easy. Why do we necessarily have to have it more complex?" District 3 Supervisor Marlin Ladner asked.

Republican Committee Chairman George Birdrow answered, "We think that there are simply problems inherent with the touch screen system that cannot be fixed. Just because you have technology, doesn't mean it's progress."

If the Justice Department approves, Harrison County voters will use the old system of marking candidates on paper ballots that are then scanned by a machine.

Board attorney Joe Meadows cautioned supervisors justice department approval could take longer than 60 days, if the Democratic Committee files an objection. That's something the committee chairman says they're considering.