St. George gears up for election with new tabulating machine
St. George — On Nov. 6, instead of slipping a ballot into a well-worn wooden box, St. George voters will insert their ballots into a new vote tabulating machine, affectionately called R2D2.
The machine was paid for by Federal funds through the Help America Vote Act, enacted in 2002 to address irregularities in voting systems.
On Monday, Nov. 5., volunteers prepared the town's 397 absentee ballots for recording by the machine.
St. George has 2,031 registered voters in town, but the aggregate is expected to increase as more residents were registering Nov. 5 and are allowed to do so until voting ends Nov. 6.
Town Manager John Falla said more than half of registered voters in town will cast ballots this election, adding that St. George's voter turnout generally tops the state average.
Falla said the new mechanized counting will expedite the counting process, allowing voting clerks and volunteers to be finished by 8:30 p.m. — providing time to watch the national election results from home.
In the 2008 election, volunteers — tallying by hand — were counting ballots until midnight, and in 1984, Falla's first year as town manager, counting continued until 3:30 a.m.
Ballots were tabulated by being separated into groups of 50. Two volunteers would pair up, with one counting and the other recording the votes. The count would then be transferred to Falla, the warden, to check the final tally. In 2008, there were 16 volunteers.
He said the social aspect will change with the technology. The town's non-binding referendum will be counted by hand, as will future local issues, Falla said.
The town has 12 voting booths set up, as there must be one booth per 200 registered voters, and there will only be an incoming voter list. The ballot is double-sided. After voting, residents will take their ballot and insert it into the machine.
The machine scans the votes and if a voter has indicated they selected a write-in candidate, the machine will identify and apportion those ballots for hand-counting. To be counted, the write-in candidate must be a declared candidate.
There will be clerks available to help voters, and a magnifying glass is on-hand if the print is too small.
To register to vote, one must provide photo identification and proof of residency, such as a piece of mail.
Falla said he foresees no issue with errors.
Volunteer and town employee, Peggy Black, said she's excited to use the new machine.
Courier Publications reporter Juliette Laaka can be reached at 594-401 ext. 118 or via email at email@example.com.