Voters make use of paper ballots
Published: September 10, 2012
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ST. CROIX - When residents headed to the polls to cast their vote in the 2012 Primary election on Saturday, some used an option that they had not had for a number of years: paper ballots.
In April, the Senate Rules and Judiciary Committee amended and passed the bill to allow for the use of paper ballots. The paper ballots bill, sponsored by Sen. Neville James and co-sponsored by Sen. Celestino White Sr., allowed voters to choose whether they wanted to vote by machine or by paper ballot. As written, it also requires that all paper ballots be counted after the closing of the polls, at the same time that electronic ballots are counted on election night.
The move to give residents the option of using paper ballots was prompted by a group of voters who complained that the use of the electronic voting machines opened the door for manipulation and tampering of a person's vote. They also said that there has been documented instances where the voting machines have failed and a voter's vote may not have been registered.
Judges reported an average of 16 voters used paper ballots at each site. Judges said the number of paper ballots used was consistent with the number of people who had tried to use provisional ballots last election.
At the poll sites, large plastic bins marked for "good ballots" or "spoiled ballots" were receptacles for the paper ballots. Rosa Soto Thomas, judge for the Evelyn Williams polling site, said there were no concerns about the use of the machines, and voters were advised of their choice to make an electronic or paper ballot vote.
"The residents seem to be quite satisfied with using the machines," she said. "There is a greater preference for the machines, and things are moving along."
Emile Henderson III said that he voted electronically on Saturday but will use a paper ballot for the General Election. He said at least one voter had an issue with the machine not registering her vote, and he is not taking any chances with that.
"It is apparent that I will be voting by paper ballot in the General Election," he said. "The lady I saw had to be put on another machine to vote because they could not reset the machine, so it will be a paper ballot for me until new machines are here and in place."
The Elections office reported that there were no issues with any of the machines, but there were issues when they were ready to upload the cartridges.
Some machines had not been closed out, and others had not printed to the tape. The machine technician had to plug the cartridges into a machine at the office to get printouts for the record.
Patrick Phillip, machine technician, said all of the information is saved on the cartridge when the vote is registered, and no data can be added, deleted or changed.
Electronic votes were uploaded and the results read for all the polling sites on St. Croix by 8:30 p.m. Saturday. Typically, that would have been the end of the process until walk-in votes and absentee votes are counted later this week. However, Board of Elections officers changed rooms and changed gears to count more than 300 paper ballots that had been cast.
The board and some volunteers went through the ballots and counted votes for the Delegate and Senator At-large races before calling it a night just before 11 p.m. The counting of the additional votes, as well as the walk-in votes, will resume today.
On St. Thomas, no paper ballots or votes were counted Saturday night. That process will begin today.
- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email email@example.com.