By ROBERT PIERCE
• Leader & Times
In the past, paper ballots were used to cast a vote during an election, leaving workers to count totals by hand, and the loss of electricity would have been little problem.
Now, with new electronic technology that allows voters to cast their choice through a machine, counting those votes is made a little easier, but electrical outages can cause headaches for both the voter and election worker.
Workers in Sherman County in Northwest Kansas recently found out how much of a problem could be caused when the electricity reportedly went out during the Aug. 5 primary.
While poll workers were left scrambling to count votes in that county, there were no such problems in Seward County, and county clerk Stacia Long said that will likely remain the case in future elections, as the county is well prepared to handle such an emergency.
“We do have a generator for electricity,” she said. “The machines also have battery backup and can run alone for a period of time until we can get the generator hooked up.”
Those machines were purchased in 2007 by the county to make voting a little easier for local constituents.
The voting machines were not the only new piece of equipment the county aquired in recent years.
In January, county commissioners approved the encumbrance of around $9,300 from the clerk’s office’s election fund to purchase eight new Poll Pads from Knowink, a St. Louis-based vendor specializing in elections.
That price tag included delivery, set up, training and software licensing. That new equipment will help voters get through check in lines faster at the polls.
Electronic poll books take the place of the traditional paper poll book, and this means election workers will no longer have to flip through pages searching for a name. Those names are now placed into one machine.
“When you check in, before, you always had to check in at a precinct, or you had to check in by last name,” former elections deputy Crystal Clemens said at a January commission meeting. “That was because we were limited with the paper poll books.
Before the new poll books became available, Clemens said she and Long were using iPads to help voters get through lines faster by helping to check registrations.
This, Clemens said, eliminated people waiting in line for as much as half an hour, only to be told they needed to go to another line.
“It makes a big difference,” she said.