The director of Columbia County's Board of Elections is anticipating a greater voter turnout at the Nov. 5 general election because of the implementation of touch-screen electronic voting machines.
Director Deborah Marshall will talk about the machines and demonstrate how to use one at the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce's Not Just Coffee meeting at 7:30 Monday morning at the Evans Government Complex Auditorium.
"These machines are very user-friendly," Marshall said.
Despite recent problems in Florida associated with that state's use of electronic voting machines, Marshall said she doesn't anticipate similar Election Day problems because Columbia County is using a different type of machine.
"The machines Florida has are not the same ones we have," she said. "I don't anticipate that our machines are going to give us those kinds of problems. We're very optimistic that all will go well."
Hall and Marion counties in Georgia used the Diebold machine during their primary elections with no problems. Columbia County will put the Diebold machines to the test in November.
Marshall also emphasized that poll workers - 240 in all - will be trained on how to use the machines. Diebold will send personnel to Columbia County on Wednesday and Thursday to train managers and assistant managers at each precinct on how to open and close the machines on Election Day.
"We had one machine set up at all 37 precincts during the primary election so residents got to look at the new machine and see how the machine works," Marshall said.
Marshall anticipates that the easy use of the machines will draw more voters to the polls.
"Right now, we have 48,002 active voters and 11,862 inactive voters," she said. "And, we're adding new voters every day."
Marshall said election results are typically available around 9:30 or 10 p.m. "For our first election with these machines, we don't expect poll results to be in any earlier," she said.
Residents wishing to vote in the Nov. 5 General Election must be registered by Monday. Absentee ballots must be submitted by Nov. 4. The last day for the Columbia County Board of Elections to mail out absentee ballots will be Nov. 1.
Absentee voters will also see a change in how they cast their votes. Until now, absentee ballots were cast using a punch-card method.
"Absentee ballots will be done using optical scan," Marshall said. "Votes are cast by coloring in bubbles using a blue or black pen."
Mark Wills, the chairman-elect of the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce, said the opportunity for residents to see the electronic voting machines is important for Election Day success. As organizer of the chamber's Not Just Coffee meetings, Wills said the meetings focus on issues important to the county's residents.
Kevin Lear and Ronnie Hutto, both with the county's construction and maintenance department, will discuss highway construction at the chamber's December meeting.
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