VI residents are participating in training sessions aimed at readying them for the new challenges that will await them at the polls this year. Along with a long list of candidates to select from, voters will also face both new equipment and a new method for voting. Realizing how daunting this new challenge may be for older voters, AARP-VI has been conducting voting machine demonstrations in conjunction with the VI Board of Elections to help familiarize voters with the changes to the 2014 elections.
After years of lengthy public debate the VI Board of Elections finally made the decision to embark on an election process that would include a paper ballot. This is a very different process from what voters, especially senior voters, are familiar. It is important that AARP-VI ensure our members understand the new process and are comfortable with it.
As a result of this change, the new equipment being used for the first time in this election will have three verification trails. Paper ballots deposited into one of the “election processors” will be retained for at least two (2) years within the sealed collection box contained within the machine on Election Day. The second verification trail consists of an ongoing paper roll which contains the actual number registered when the voter inserts their ballot as well as the name of each candidate selected. The third level of the verification trail is a USB drive. These drives will be used to expedite the vote count once the polls close.
The new equipment will be used for the first time during the primaries and the process being used will vary slightly from what will transpire during the general election. On primary day, voters will only be given a ballot from the party of which they are a member. Individuals who are registered as “no party” will not be able to vote during the primary. The primary will allow each party to narrow the scope of the candidates running representing that particular party. So, in other words, Democrats will only be able to select which Democrat they want running in the general election; Republicans will only be able to select their desired Republican representative, and so on for other parties such as the Independent Citizen’s Movement, or ICM.
However, in the general election in November all voters will receive the same ballot which will contain the individuals selected from each party during the primary, in addition to those candidates who are running as no-party candidates. Voters can vote for whomever they desire, regardless of party affiliation – unless the voter has indicated they want to place their vote for “the Party”, in which case, their vote will be attributed to each candidate for each position running from that party.
The new process will require voters to pay special attention to how carefully they mark their ballots. The processing equipment is extremely sensitive and will pick up stray marks as mistakes. Mistakes will cause the ballot to be rejected. Voters will have three (3) opportunities to attempt to vote on paper. If the voter continues to have difficulties, they will have the option to utilize the new equipment reserved for persons with disabilities. Although this equipment is specifically designed to assist persons with sight or hearing impairment anyone with a third (3rd) spoiled ballot will have one final option to place their vote. They may also receive assistance from a poll worker if necessary.
Questions should be directed to the Board of Elections. Voters should log onto AARP VI’s Facebook: www.facebook.com/aarpvi or Twitter: www.twitter.com/aarpvi to get the latest update on election activities and view the AARP VI Voters Guides that address the issues of residents 50+ and the responses from the candidates.