When casting your vote, consider using touch screen machine to save paper, county money

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When most people enter their polling location to vote in Switzerland County, they assume that they will be handed a traditional paper ballot.

But sitting out in front of the voting tables in an electronic voting option that – if county residents would begin to use it more – would not only cut down on the amount of paper needed to print ballots; but it would also save the county thousands of dollars.

Switzerland County Clerk of the Circuit Court Ginger Peters said that the computerized touch screen voting machines will be used for the third time during the upcoming election, but that the willingness of the voters to use them at different polls around the county varies greatly.

“People have an option of voting either with a paper ballot or with the touch screen machine,” Ginger Peters said. “You would tell the clerk at your polling place that instead of a paper ballot you would like to use the new touch screen.”

Ginger Peters said that the touch screen machine is very simple to use, and that once a card is loaded into the machine, the image that a voter sees is exactly like a traditional paper ballot.

“The clerk will give you a small access card, which looks like a debit card,” Ginger Peters said. “And the clerk will load it for you. It gives you simple instructions, and you can highlight it to make it darker or lighter; and the print can be made larger or smaller to make it easier for the voter to read it.”

Ginger Peters says that once the ballot appears, voters would simply touch the screen area next to the name of the candidate that they wish to vote for, and once finished the machine will ask the voter to review their ballot. The voter can then see what they’ve marked, and if they don’t like something they can go back and change it. At the end, the voter just touches “Cast My Ballot”, and the card will pop back out for the voter to take to the clerk.

Ballot cast.

Ginger Peters said that the electronic screen looks exactly like the ballot, including the public questions and other information that voters would see on a paper ballot.

The machines have been in place here in Switzerland County since 2004; and although they are not new to the polling locations, many voters either don’t know that the option exists, or they are nervous about using the new technology.

“Precincts vary,” Ginger Peters says. “Some precincts don’t use it at all. In one precinct, everybody loves it. Some precincts are about even, 50-50.”

Ginger Peters said that the touch screen machine does have a time limit on it, which worries some people, but according to state election code, all ballots have a time limit. She said that a voter has three minutes to cast a ballot. Using a traditional ballot, election officials should tell the voter when the time limit is up and they need to cease voting; while the touch screen voting system simply shuts off after three minutes.

“But it’s not as scary as people think,” Ginger Peters says. “If a voter runs out of time, they simply need to go to the clerk and tell them that they didn’t get to finish, and they will get another card so that they can finish. Anyone who has any problem simply needs to talk to the officials working at their polling location.”

Another advantage of the touch screen is that it can tilt to make it easier for a voter to cast his or her ballot; and the screen will actually detach from the stand so a person who is in a wheelchair can vote without mobility problems.

The advantage to the county for using the touch screens is that it’s simpler and more “green” because it saves on paper.

It also potentially saves the county money.

“It would save the county quite a bit of money if everybody used these,” Ginger Peters said. “For the whole election, it costs roughly $10,000 to hold the election last year, which includes paying the poll workers and everybody. We spend approximately $5,000 in paper ballots.”

Since the touch screen machines are already owned by the county, as more and more people use the touch screens, there will be less of a need to print as many ballots.

Ginger Peters said that she doesn’t see a situation anytime soon where the touch screen machines will completely replace the paper ballot. She noted that with a traditional ballot, the county actually has a paper trail in its hands, which helps should there be a problem.

Currently with the touch screen machines there is no paper trail, with the exception of those people voting with the machine prior to the election. Ginger Peters said that those electronic ballots have to be “tagged” so that they can be removed if the voter would pass away prior to election day, which is Indiana statute.

Ginger Peters said that no ballot is tagged to a name, but is assigned a number only. She stresses that at no time does anyone know how someone voted.

Ginger Peters stated that there is no problem if a person continues to use a traditional paper ballot, but hopes that voters will try the new technology and see just how simple it is to use the touch screen.

“Just give it a chance and I think everyone will see how much easier it is to use,” Ginger Peters said. “People don’t need to be scared of it, because when they see it, they are going to see that it’s really easy.”

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With the election getting closer, there are some important dates and other information that voters need to be aware of.

- The clerk’s office is holding Saturday voting hours both this Saturday, October 23rd; and also on Saturday, October 30th. Voting times will be from 8 a.m. until noon each Saturday.

– Voting in the clerk’s office is continuing; and is available on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 8 a.m. until noon and from 1-3:30 p.m.; and on Thursdays from 8 a.m. until noon.

Voting in the clerk’s office ends at noon on Monday, November 1st.

– The clerk’s office is still taking applications for those who want to vote by mail. The deadline for voting by mail is Monday, October 25th; and the traveling board deadline is noon on Monday, November 1st.

- Those mailing in their absentee ballots need to make sure that they mail the ballot in enough time so that it arrives in the clerk’s office before Tuesday, November 2nd. Any ballot received after November 2nd will not be counted.

Anyone having any questions about the upcoming election should contact the clerk’s office at 427-4415.