Paper ballots will be back in the voting booths next year

By Michael Howlett

April 19, 2014

There’s an old saying “Everything old is new again.” That will be proven next year when paper ballots will be used for all elections in the Town of Hillsville and Carroll County. The change came about due to General Assembly legislation in 2007.

“The General Assembly passed legislation that direct read equipment (touch screens) could no longer be purchased. They want a paper trail,” said Kimberly Cloud, general registrar for Carroll County. “Our touch screen machines are repairable, but it is more cost efficient to transfer to optical scan equipment, which provide a paper trail.”

With the new equipment, a voter will mark a paper ballot, but it is then fed into a scanner and votes are tabulated by candidate, so the optical scan system will be just as quick as the touch screen in tabulating election results. That is very important, said Cloud.

“The polls close at 7 p.m. and the public wants to know who won at 7:05 p.m.,” she said.

The optical scan machine is not actually new to Carroll County.

“We’ve been using this type of machine in our central absentee precinct since June of last year, and optical scan equipment has been used in different localities,” noted Cloud, who has submitted a funding request to the Carroll County Board of Supervisors for $165,000 to purchase the optical scan equipment.

Cloud said she didn’t foresee any problems with the switch in equipment.

“We’re not expecting a big change. We’ve had a problem and we’re not anticipating any,” she said.

Beginning with the town elections in May, Cloud advised that a photo ID will be required. A valid driver’s license, a DMV-photo identification card, a valid passport, an employee identification card, other government-issued identification card or a valid college or university student identification card are all acceptable. Anyone not possessing a photo ID should contact the registrar’s office for a free ID.

Absentee voting is underway at the registrar’s office from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays. The final day for in-person absentee voting is on the Saturday, May 3, from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Anyone wishing to vote by mail should call the general registrar’s office at 276-730-3035 by April 29. Absentee ballots must be received on or before 7 p.m. Election Day in order to be counted.

Michael Howlett can be contacted at 276-728-7311 or on Twitter@MikeEHowlett