Thursday, February 2, 2006

Election officials verify voters’ data

Staff Writer

Marshall County election commissioners Marie Palmer and Betty Whaley and circuit court clerk Lucy Carpenter have their hands full this year. The Help America Vote Act will go into action on the state and local levels.

Recent activities at the Marshall County Court House regarding preparations include getting the new Diebold voting machines checked and implementing the State-wide Election Management System (SEMS).

The commissioners are working to verify Marshall County voter registration data in SEMS - a process that will take almost a month, according to Carpenter.

The verification procedure assures that Marshall County voters are registered in the correct district and that the information is loaded in SEMS.

New voter registration applications are now scanned and loaded into SEMS so every item on the application, including signatures can be checked. Carpenter said verification of signatures is necessary in handling signatures on petitions.

SEMS also will track voters who move out of the county and register in another county, she said.

“SEMS will notify both counties of the dual registration,” Carpenter said. “A person cannot be registered in two places. SEMS automatically moves the registration of the individual to the correct county.”

Election Commissioners, who are charged with verifying the active voter rolls, will use printouts from SEMS in preparing active voter rolls for elections.

Updating the rolls for changes in addresses, deletion of the names of the deceased, and other information takes place on the SEMS site.

The system also stores the names of candidates and their election districts. The information is readily accessible for setting up the ballot for the voting machines, Carpenter said.

Poll worker histories are also kept so when a poll worker registers in another county, the election commissioners can see their past service and call on them for help if help is wanted.

Carpenter called SEMS “a powerful system.”

“It is going to be good for the state,” she said. “I just wish all counties had the same system. Once everyone is trained, I think the system will be more efficient.”

About five counties opted not to buy the new Diebold voting equipment, she said.

Paper ballots will be available for absentee voting, curbside voting and affidavit voting, Carpenter said.

Paper ballots will be scanned and all votes except affidavit ballots will be counted at the courthouse on election night, she said. The scanner will get election results quicker because paper ballots will not have to be counted by poll workers.

“Boy, they’ll be happy about that,” she said.

Poll workers will also be trained on the new voting machines and invited to help demonstrate the equipment at community training seminars where citizens can become familiar with the new equipment and practice voting using a mock ballot.

Elections are scheduled this year for U.S. Senators and Congressmen and for appellate court judges and judges.

There will not be a primary election unless incumbent senators Lott and Cochran and incumbent representatives (Roger Wicker in this district) have opposition. Judges’ names will be on the November 7 ballot only because judges do not run on the party system.

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