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Voting catches up with techy times

Post Independent/Kelley Cox
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Garfield County voters will have a choice at the polls this November. They’ll have the option to vote in the traditional way, on a paper ballot, or on one of the county’s new voting machines. The eSlate, manufactured by Hart Intercivic of Austin, Texas, will be in all polling places in the county on Nov. 7. They are also available for early voting through Nov. 3 at the Garfield County Courthouse in Glenwood Springs and the county building in Rifle at 144 W. Third St.Voters unfamiliar with electronic voting machines will get a warm welcome and cheerful tutorial from the election judges.On the third floor of the county courthouse in Glenwood, election judges will ask for identification – picture ID is best.The voter’s name and address is checked against the voter registration rolls to make sure they are eligible to vote. Then they are given a voter identification number which has been assigned to every registered voter in the county.Inside the polling place, another election judge checks the voter’s name, address and birth date to verify that person has not already voted or has requested an absentee ballot.

Voting on the new machines has been intimidating for some of the 100-plus people who have voted since Oct. 23.Next, the voter passes on to another judge who gives him or her an access code to use the voting machine. “Usually I try to reassure everyone because they’re a little nervous,” said election judge April Brandt who was working with judge Jean Troth at early voting Wednesday at the county courthouse.When she gives voters their access codes, Troth walks them through the use of the eSlate.”This is what the machine looks like,” she says, and makes sure voters are comfortable sitting at the eSlate. Some have had problems entering their access codes. Mostly, it’s a question of getting used to navigating the screen, she said. Unlike many voting machines now in use in the state, “this is not a touch screen,” Alsdorf said. Nor is it a computer.

Below the eSlate’s screen are the controls which help the voter work through the ballot. A dial on the lower right of the screen is used to highlight candidates and ballot questions and mark the voter’s choice. To the left of the screen is an enclosed paper strip that shows how the individual has voted. Voters do not walk away from the voting machines with that paper in hand, Alsdorf said. However, the paper tally act as a backup to the electronically tabulated results stored in a memory card inside the machine. They can also be used to confirm how a person has voted and to confirm results in case of discrepancies.When a voter has worked through the entire ballot he or she presses a large red button on the lower left of the machine that reads, “Cast ballot.” The eSlate asks voters if they’re sure of their choices, and gives them the opportunity to go back and change a vote. An American flag waves across the screen.”Then it says you may leave the booth,” Brandt said.The machines are also set up for vision-impaired voters who can use headphones that allow the voter to voice-activate vote choices.



Troth said most voters have been taking about 10 minutes to work through this year’s lengthy ballot.”Most of the people who come in are prepared” with cheat sheets, Alsdorf said.Alsdorf said she’s satisfied security is in place for the machines and there will be no tampering with results. To that end, voters are asked to leave cell phones with the election judges while voting on the machines. Cell phones are can be a security issue because many have built in cameras that could record the ballots pictured on the eSlates. Cell phones could also interfere with the electronics in the machine.Alsdorf also reminded voters that absentee ballots are still available by mail until Oct. 31 and to pick up in person at the county courthouse in Glenwood Springs until Nov. 3. Voters must fill out an application to receive an absentee ballot, which are available at local libraries and the county clerk’s offices in Glenwood Springs and Rifle.Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. 16605dgray@postindependent.com


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