Election interest has commission girding for record November turnout

Friday, October 3, 2008

BERRYVILLE -- With the November general election just weeks away, members of the Carroll County Election Commission are meeting weekly to prepare for an election event that may well surpass any other in the county's history.

In just the past 30 days, 300 "first-time new registrants" have registered to vote, said Cathy Ellis, the county's election coordinator.

The registration pace picked up after the Democrats and Republicans hosted national conventions, she said, and registration has continued at a steady pace at both county courthouses ever since.

Election officials believe there is much interest in the presidential race -- one that is unlike any other in this nation's history.

Add to that the hotly contested county contests and controversial state­wide initiatives, such as the unmarried couple adoption ban, and voter turnout is expected to be high.

In preparation for the upcoming ballot count -- and past problems with paper ballots jamming in the 650 counting machine, commissioners okayed the purchase of miniature dehumidifiers for each of the 20 metal ballot boxes.

The dehumidifiers, priced around $20 each, are a special silica gel product, designed to "drink up" excess humidity. They reportedly turn color, from blue to pink, when saturated, and can be reused by drying them out in a conventional oven afterwards, "offering a lifetime of moisture protection," according to product literature.

Patti Tetu, an election volunteer, said she and her husband Bob Tetu have been working with a 650 technician to "tweak" the 650 machine to perform as it should.

She said the tech didn't think moisture was a key problem, but part of the problem.

During its last test, she said the 650 "missed a beat" in the beginning by jamming, adjustments were made, it ran better, more adjustments were made, and, "in the end, we ran 1,000 ballots through without hiccups.

"Theoretically," she added, "when it's plugged in, it should run."

Ellis said the state had confirmed that "someone special," a "geek squad" technician from the state's Department of Information Services, would be here election day and election eve to oversee the operation of the 650.

Election Commissioner Levi Phillips requested another 650 test next week. It was scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday. Both Bob and Patti Tetu will be consulting with the tech by telephone to perform the test.

The election commission is set to meet again on Tuesday at 9:30 a.m.

Public testing of equipment for early voting will be at 2:30 p.m. Oct. 13. Public testing of equipment for election day voting will be at 10 a.m. Oct. 27. Both public tests will take place at the county clerk's office in Berryville.

One other matter of business was addressed at the meeting pertaining to the recent school elections.

Phillips said both Berryville and Green Forest schools have "at-large" school board seats. It is up to the schools to differentiate between the two, he said, such as attaching position numbers to each, to fend off any future problems.

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