OREGON COUNTY -- The Oregon County Clerks Office is preparing for the 2006 election year with new voting equipment.
Oregon County Clerk Gary Hensley said Jan. 6 that his office is waiting for 32 new voting machines to be delivered to the courthouse. Hensley said the county received $156,000 in one-time federal funds to update voting equipment in accordance with the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA)
"HAVA is a set of reforms passed by the federal government following the 2000 presidential election," Hensley said. "Among other things, HAVA requires every polling place in the country to have at least one accessible voting machine for individuals with disabilities. It also requires that voters have the opportunity to check their ballot for mistakes and make sure they did not 'over-vote' before their ballot is cast. This is often called second chance voting," the county clerk said.
He said a breakdown of the federal funds received shows $66,400 is designated for the purchase of the handicapped accessible machines and $89,600 is to be used to comply with second chance voting.
Hensley said he and county clerk deputies Kim Hollis and Jerri Rackley have attended several meetings in Ripley and Howell counties where vendors selling the new types of voting machines displayed their machines.
"We received four bids on the voting machines and accepted the bid of Henry Adkins and Sons from Clinton, Mo. The brand of the machines is AccuVote. This is the same company and the same brand our newer voting machines came from. We have been very pleased with the service received from the AccuVote products," Hensley said.
He said the company sold his office the 32 new machines at at cost of $154,000. Hensley said the $1,400 left from the federal funds will be used for materials, upkeep and other equipment that will be needed to comply with HAVA.
Hensley said until the federal law was passed the county had five voting machines. "The five voting machines were set up at four different precincts -- Piney 1, Piney 2, Thayer 1 and Thayer 2. The remaining machine was set up and used in my office," he said.
The county clerk said he did not have any problems with the five voting machines. "We did what we call a public test a week or so before an actual election. We ran sample ballots through the machine to ensure on election day they would be ready."
Hensley said every precinct (all 16) have four election workers, two Republicans and two Democrats. "Most all of the election workers will have to to be trained in how to run the machines," he said. He said there have been 11 precincts in the county that have little or no experience with automatic voting machines. In the past those 11 smallest precincts brought their ballots sealed to the courthouse where they were counted by the automatic machines.
Oregon and Howell counties were the first two counties in the area that went to the automatic counting machines in 1993. Neighboring Shannon County still counts their ballots by hand.
Hensley said he expects the new machines in the county to be up and running by the August primary.