After Margaret Terry of Fort Spring cast a pretend vote on one of the new electronic touch-screen voting machines during a demonstration at the Greenbrier County Committee on Aging Center Friday, she turned to the crowd of senior citizens and said, “Don’t worry, it’s really simple.”

From the back of the room a lone voice cried out, “That’s great news!”

Greenbrier County is one of 34 counties which has switched all their precincts to the new voting machines, according to Therese Cox, senior outreach coordinator for the secretary of state’s office.

Only Wyoming and Braxton counties will still be relying on paper ballots and 16 others will use the optical scan method where voters darken ovals to vote.

Cox has been touring the state with the machines and introducing them to seniors, who make up the largest voting bloc in West Virginia. Cox has been diligently working on dispelling any myth that the new machines will be difficult to use during their first try in the upcoming May 9 primary.

“I’ve not had one person tell me that they could not vote on these machines,” said Cox, who has been to more than 30 senior centers since January. “Some people are leery at first, but that’s before they give the machines a try.”

During the demonstration, Cox explained that on election day a poll worker will enter the booth with the voter and insert a device which brings a ballot onto the screen. The poll worker will exit and voters simply touch the name of the person they wish to vote for and move down the line until all votes have been cast.

It’s impossible to over-vote with these machines.

Florey Bucklew of Lewisburg said the new machines are “simple to use” and people will just have to get used to them.

“There are some people that just don’t like new things,” he said. “But I don’t think there will be any problems with this.”

County Clerk B.J. Livesay likened the new machines to operating an ATM cash machine or even simpler devices.

“If you can use a touch-tone phone, then you can vote in Greenbrier County,” he said. “It’s amazing how attitudes change about the machines after someone has tried them out.”

The machines are also equipped with audio headphones to allow those who are visually impaired to vote.

Emery Boone of Lewisburg said the new touch-screen machines are easier than filling in circles with a No. 2 pencil, the prior method used in the county.

“There’s nothing to it, really. I had no problems voting,” he said. “It’s a lot different. People will have to get out and give it a try; it’s a lot easier than the old way.”

And hopefully more efficient. Geographically, Greenbrier is the second-largest county in the state, and past election nights often stretched into the wee hours of the next morning before final results could be tabulated.

“Poll workers will be able to download all the votes from each machine and then upload them into a master machine which tabulates the votes instantly,” Cox said.

So it may be possible for Francis Williams of Lewisburg to know if her candidate came out on top on election night before retiring to bed.

“I’m not crazy about new technology, but it’s something you have to learn and this seems a lot less complicated,” she said.

— E-mail:

cgiggenbach@register-herald.com

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