Ballot box will feature new look for next election

Regardless whether recommendations from the Commission on Federal Election Reform are implemented, the ballot box will look different come the next election.

Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew said he plans on holding a series of public meetings before year’s end to discuss new electronic voting technology mandated by federal law.

The Help America Vote Act of 2002 requires polling places to be equipped with technology that makes it easier for people with disabilities to vote.

For example, in Douglas County, blind voters currently must be read a copy of the ballot by two poll workers who then mark the ballot for the voter.

“The law will require us to have the ballot available in a form that it can be listened to and can be marked in a way that nobody else knows how you voted,” Shew said.

The law also will require all polling places to be equipped with technology allowing for “second-chance voting.”

Shew said an example of when a person would be allowed a second-chance vote was if they accidentally voted for two people for the same position. Currently that vote would not be counted for either candidate.

Shew said the new requirement could be addressed by placing scanners at each polling place that would scan the paper ballots and alert a voter if the ballot was filled out in a way that would void it.

The requirement also could be met by switching to electronic voting machines. Currently, the county uses paper ballots. Shew said he wanted to hear from county residents about the use of electronic voting machines.

But Shew said if the county did move to electronic “touchscreen” voting machines, he would want it to also have the ability to print out a paper ballot of each vote.

“In my mind, if we needed to do a recount, we would have to have a paper trail to feel confident,” Shew said. “I would insist on that.”

Shew said the upgrades required by the federal law likely would cost several hundred thousand dollars, but he said significant federal funding is expected to be available.

Shew hasn’t yet set the dates for the public meeting, but said he would announce them soon.