Early voters: A resounding ‘yes’ for paper ballots

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Jimmy Deaton and Jan Russell, both of Dublin, sign in at Golay’s vote center. Poll workers seated at left are Jackie Webb of Richmond, Susie Gabbard of Dublin, Sandra Buck of Milton and Margaret Lechner of Richmond. Photo by Millicent Martin Emery

Wayne County voters new to paper ballots consistently showed support for the process leading up to Election Day.

“It was so much easier,” said Christine Guarisco of Cambridge City, who previously worked elections in Michigan.

After voting at the Golay Community Center, Agnes Fisher of Milton said she likes the ease of the paper ballots and said older voters will remember them.

Bob Smith of Richmond also supported the use of paper ballots after casting one at First Bank Kuhlman Center. He said he appreciated how those votes can be verified, compared to Wayne County’s votes previously cast on computerized equipment.

“I like it, and that’s why I’m smiling,” Smith said as he walked away from the scanner where he saw a screen that congratulated him for successfully submitting his ballot.

Paper ballots debuted in the spring primary, but since turnout was about 13 percent of registered voters, the fall election is the first time for many residents to see them.

During a week of early voting, poll workers also described Wayne County’s turnout as steady.

Wayne County’s voter registration office says an estimated 7,795 voters already cast ballots as of Saturday afternoon.

They show 555 voters at Golay in Cambridge City; 2,282 at First Bank Kuhlman Center; 1,721 at First English Lutheran Church; 596 at New Testament Church in Hagerstown; and 1,656 at the courthouse, for a total of 6,810 in person. Ballots by mail and those cast by the homebound with the help of a traveling board so far have equaled 985.

Voters also had an opportunity to cast ballots Monday morning at the courthouse, and then at one of eight vote centers for 12 hours Tuesday.

That number likely will not match the county’s Fall 2020 voter turnout during the presidential election, when 28,041 ballots were cast.

Poll worker Marjorie Briar helped Nov. 2 at Golay Community Center in Cambridge City. She said her mother was an election inspector for years. When Marjorie was first married, she helped her mother at the polls, but she soon had to delay more election involvement until her own retirement.

Betty Anne Dilley of Richmond has worked elections for several years.

“It’s rewarding because you know you’re doing something for your country,” Dilley said.

Elizabeth Wonsetler of Hagerstown appreciates the convenience of vote centers since she could vote in the same building where she was playing pickleball at Golay.

Wonsetler normally votes early. “I just think it’s less complicated,” Wonsetler said.

As Wayne County Clerk Debbie Berry dropped off paperwork at Golay, she noted that voters like the “old school” feel of the paper ballots. Berry’s also pleased by the new technology that instantly scans completed ballots for errors before they go into a locked box for Election Night counting.

For instance, if a voter selects too many candidates for an office, the machine will alert the voter and poll workers, and voters can start over immediately with a fresh ballot rather than have their vote be thrown out.

Berry thanked Indiana Secretary of State Holli Sullivan’s office for helping local taxpayers save money on the new election equipment through a multi-county purchase and a federal grant.

“If we would have had to have bought it, it would have cost us about $2 million,” Berry said. “By the secretary of state buying it for several counties, she bought it in bulk, and so it was a huge savings for the entire state.”

Janet Wise of Richmond used adjectives such as “fine” and “easy” to describe her first encounter with the paper ballots.

“I always vote because I feel like it’s my democratic duty,” Wise said.

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