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General Election turnout sizable

The long lines at the polls on Tuesday reflect a number of factors.

First, for an election with no federal races and only judges state-wide, turnout was pretty high.

Second, Tuesday’s was the first election in the county for a new batch of voting machines.

Third, there were few voting machines than there have been in the past.

“I understand there are upset voters,” Director of Elections Lisa Rivett said. “We had long lines. We had less machines to work with.”

“Hopefully, we’ll fix that in the future,” Rivett said.

“There were a lot of people that were patient,” she said. “There were a lot of people who were impatient.”

While most of those who went to the polls waited to cast their votes, not everyone did.

“People were mad and they turned away,” she said.

“We had a learning curve,” Rivett said. “It’s a learning curve for everybody.”

Voters and poll workers alike were working with the machines under live conditions for the first time. The new equipment was not limited to the Image Cast X (ICX) touchscreen machines. There were also printers attached to each machine to provide the paper ballots required under the new state rules. Poll workers could not give all of their attention to the touchscreens. There were also problems and unfamiliar situations with the printers.

“A lot of the precincts were getting low of paper,” Rivett said. She had people out trying to stay ahead of that problem all night.

That’s an easy fix, now that the possibility is known.

During Election Day, poll workers tried to alleviate the waits by handing out paper ballots to voters who wanted them. “We were doing that,” Rivett said. Like the ballots printed from the ICX ballots, the paper ballots are scanned by machine at the courthouse.

That the county experienced the problems during the General Election of 2019 is the good news.

While almost 28 percent turnout is respectable, the turnout for presidential election years — at both Primary and General elections — is invariably higher. Next year is a presidential election year and many counties, including Erie County, will be rolling out their new systems in May.

Warren County now has six months to work out the kinks.

“That’s why I wanted to roll this out now rather than in the spring during a presidential primary,” she said. “We’ll be better prepared for next year. We’re looking at how to improve the voting experience.”

The ballot scanner did its job well. That equipment reads each ballot — whether it be a ballot printed at the precinct, a paper ballot filled out by hand, or an absentee ballot — and tabulates the votes.

Some ballots — including those that were torn — had to be recreated. Rivett said a team comprised of equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans copied the ballots exactly in those cases.

The only votes that will have to be adjudicated during Friday’s count will be write-in votes, overvotes entered by hand, and ambiguous marks on ballots. When the scanner runs into a ballot with one of those conditions, it saves its information in a separate folder, making it easy for the Election Board to take a look at it.

The public write-in count will be held at 9 a.m. Friday, in the Commissioners Conference Room at Warren County Courthouse.

Rivett thanked the poll workers for persevering during a difficult day. “I have a great group of people working for me.”

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