Meridian Star

November 4, 2012

Election day 2012 draws closer

By Terri Ferguson Smith / tsmith@themeridianstar.com
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN — Along with getting voting machines ready and in place, election workers have been busily preparing for election day by packing boxes full of everything from name tags to pens and scotch tape to envelopes and signature lists.

    A lot of work goes into preparing for an election, according Rod Amos, election commissioner for District Two in Lauderdale County. He and his fellow commissioners were busy Thursday preparing for Tuesday's presidential, congressional and judicial elections.

    The commissioners themselves, on this year's ballot, are all unopposed in the upcoming election, as are local county school board candidates.

    Lauderdale County has 189 Diebold voting machines, purchased in 2007.

    "Yes, all of the machines are being used. We based it on the turnout for 2008," Amos said.

    There was about a 75 percent turnout of registered voters in 2008, he said.

    "We look at the turnout and percentage of registered voters that we currently have and we base it on that," he said. "We try to allocate to each precinct accordingly."

    Some machines are being reserved in case of problems on election day.

    Long before the day arrives, some 300 poll workers have to be trained and voting machines have to be tested for logic and accuracy.

    "We test the machines to make sure that they're calculating votes properly," Amos said. "We zero the machines out and make sure there are no votes on the machine. We make sure the printers and everything are working properly before we send them out to the precincts."

    And there's tons of paperwork, he said.

    "There are a lot of little details that we have to make sure all our I' are dotted and our Ts are crossed," Amos said.

    Precinct managers will pick up transfer boxes on Monday afternoon.

    "It's a full day," he said, adding that poll workers start at 6 a.m. to get the precincts open and ready for voters at 7 a.m. After the polls close 12 hours later, their work is not done.

    "They have a lot of paperwork to fill out before they bring the transfer cases back to the courthouse," Amos said.

    That includes counting absentee ballots from voters in their precinct.

    They also have to print out the results from each machine, tape those to the wall and record seals on the machines to make sure that everything is done securely.

    "They have these bags they have to put the memory cards back in because the memory cards are the things that are in the machines that keep the voting information on so when they bring these in, along with the transfer cases, we'll take these out. That's what we put into the main computer to tabulate the results."

    The Election Commission begins the process of certifying the results the next day.

    Commissioners had some advice for those wishing to avoid the crowd. Go to vote during the mid-morning or mid-afternoon hours if possible, because so many people try to vote either on their way to work, during lunchtime or after work, which makes for big crowds at those times.

    And there is a rumor that just won't go away: Voter ID. Commissioners remind all registered voters that Voter ID has not yet gone into effect in Mississippi, so no photo ID will be required at the polls. However, ID may be required where people have registered to vote by mail who have never voted before. Even so, there are other forms of ID that can be accepted, such as a utility bill, government correspondence  or a payroll check stub with the voter's name and address on it.

    Voters are also urged to look at their voter registration card to make sure they know where to go to vote before election day.

    "It may help the poll worker assist them at getting to the correct precinct." Amos said.

    There will also be people available at each precinct to help voters who may need help finding the correct precinct. Each voter whose precinct has changed has been mailed a new voter registration card.

    Precinct changes are:

• No. 105 - formerly at Jaycee Building — now at Trinity Lutheran Church next door to Jaycee Building, 4805 Hwy. 39 North.

• No. 238 - formerly at Marion Town Hall — now at Lauderdale Baptist Association, 5521 Clinton St., Marion

• No. 254 - formerly at Russell Baptist Church — now at Russell Community Center, 1722 Marion Russell Road

• No. 329 - formerly Hughes Memorial Foundation — now at Fellowship Baptist Church, 9325 Fellowship Road

• No. 519 - formerly Bonita United Methodist Church — now at Willow Ridge Apartments Office, 2701 Willow Bend Road

•No. 564 - formerly Vimville Fire Station — now at Coker's Chapel United Methodist Church, 3024 Jeff Davis School Road.

    Polls are open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday.