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Election Board Tests Systems Ahead of Nov. 8 General Election; Has Sent Absentee Ballots

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Tim Jagielo
Vanderburgh County Election Board members execute a mock election Thursday, Sept, 29. The votes are entered via touch screen. The machine then prints a small paper ballot to be tabulated.
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Tim Jagielo
Election Board President Joe Harrison and member David Shaw (right) vote on Unisyn Freedom Vote machines as a mock test.

Before fifty thousand or so Vanderburgh County residents will come out to vote in the general election, the Election Board needs to test their voting machines and process.

For this, they meet in a small conference room in the county Administration Building.

President Joe Harrison is leading the meeting.

“And as far as early voting, we're gonna use the Old National Events Plaza …” he said.

Behind them are three voting machines, representing three different county precincts which will be used during the election. On the other table are a few vote tabulators.

After they iron out which room they’ll be using in the Old National Events Plaza Elections, Project Manager Deb Oldham instructs the board members on testing the voting machines.

“… So you all have a ballot in front of you. And you will mark its paper and you will mark it however you would like. And then when you finish, you're going to come up here to the machines and you're going to replicate what you did on the papers. …”

They’ll basically do a mini voting session complete with ballots, precincts and a tabulation and individual reports at the end.

“… So if you verify all the zeros on your tape, the first one you have, go ahead and sign it and then you can start voting on your ballot," she said.

Clerk of the Courts Carla Hayden says this test is required by law. “And it's been this way for at least decades. We were doing this back in the 1990s with the equipment that we used at that time."

She said the public can come watch the process — and a few did.

“It's that extra layer that says that ‘yes, the machines are working as they should. They're counting the votes as they should. They're not adding anything. They're not taking away anything and and they're counting for the right people.’”

First they fill out the paper ballot by hand.

The actual test begins with a tiny slip of paper, an activation slip they receive from a poll worker once they’re verified as registered to vote. This activates their machine and brings up the correct ballot for their precinct, of which there are 135. They fill out their ballot again, digitally on a touch screen.

“When they go through, verify that everything is how they want it to be. Then they'll complete their vote, it'll print out a paper ballot,” Hayden said. “And then that goes through a tabulator to count those votes that they put on their paper ballot.”

The actual ballot containing the voting marks, looks a little like a grocery store receipt.

“Some voters think ‘oh, that's my receipt to take home with me,’” Hayden said. “And it's not that — it is your ballot, they'd have to go through the tabulator or your vote won’t count.”

And just like in the real world these board member’s ballots are fed into the tabulator to be counted, just like on election day.

Hayden said if anyone votes in-person absentee, the slip is saved until the whole lot of ballots are counted. Hayden said this is because officially in Indiana, “we don't have early voting. We have-in-person absentee voting. So no ballots can be counted until election day.”

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Tim Jagielo
A closing ballot and printed voting report.

And after all votes are counted, Deb Oldham runs a ballot with “close polls” printed across it. Which, as it sounds, closes the polls at that location and each machine prints an individual closing report.

They said it’s very user friendly and poll-worker-friendly system. There is no WIFI connection to the machines. In fact, the votes aren’t transmitted for counting at all. Votes go on a special encrypted memory card which only they can open back at the county building.

Hayden said her department is ready. They’ve already sent absentee ballots out, and have started receiving some.

Absentee voting applications must be received by Thursday, October 27. Early voting, which is technically absentee voting in person — begins October 12 and ends November 7. Check the county website for a list of locations.