Everything about local voting on May 7 “went as smooth as a cool mountain breeze,” according to Wayne County Clerk Debbie Berry.

She noted low but steady turnout most of the day, and that appeared to be the case at the vote center in Cambridge City’s Golay Community Center.

Around 11 a.m., a few voters were on site, but they were outnumbered by the active pickleball players on the nearby outdoor court.

READ: View the 2024 primary election results

Golay’s ballot scanner stopped working for a few minutes around that time for a paper jam, and a few voters had to wait for the inspector on site to get it cleared. Each site has a backup scanner, but it wasn’t needed, Berry said.

Once the voter places a ballot on the scanner, it rolls through the machine before dropping into the ballot box. Voters then see a message on the screen, accompanied by a large U.S. flag, that says “Your vote has been recorded. Thank you for voting.”

If it had to happen, Golay’s technology glitch came at a good time, because more voters soon streamed in, and a short line began to form. Voters waited patiently to get IDs checked and sign the screen with a stylus. They then received a printout to give to the next group of poll workers so they could get their customized ballot printed to take to a private partitioned corner of a table.

Many of the individual stations were occupied as voters inked in the boxes on their ballot. The crowd was a sharp contrast to the prior week of early voting, when fewer than 250 voters stopped by Golay over the five days.

Poll worker Sandy Buck-Spurgin of Milton said she liked the steady crowds because it made Tuesday go much faster than the prior week. Poll workers stay on site for at least 13 hours on Election Day.

This was the first election in recent memory for Ken Martin of Cambridge City to cast a pen-and-paper ballot after Wayne County stopped using computers operated with a dial to select candidates. The new ballots provide a paper trail for voter confidence. 

Martin said using the new paper ballot was a positive experience, and it reminded him of even earlier elections when he used a stylus to punch out his preference on the ballot. However, he soon thought of the election controversy caused by “hanging chads” in the 2000 presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore. It took weeks to complete recounts and resolve questions about voters’ intentions.

Using a pen “removes some of the risk of incorrect ballots,” Martin said.

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A version of this article appeared in the May 15 2024 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Millicent Martin Emery is a reporter and editor for the Western Wayne News.