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Clerks predict 30 percent voter-turnout

Oxford to use electronic poll books for first time

Oxford Twp. Clerk Curtis Wright (right) and Deputy Clerk Renee Wilson pose with one of the new electronic poll books and a card reader. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
August 01, 2012 - It isn't an exact science, but Oxford and Addison's township clerks are both predicting a 30 percent voter-turnout rate during the Tuesday, Aug. 7 primary election.

"Traditionally, the turnout for primary elections isn't as big as it is for the general election," explained Oxford Township Clerk Curtis Wright. "It's one of the more important elections, but people just don't (vote in) it for some reason."

"I thought it was going to be really busy," said Addison Township Clerk Pauline Bennett. "I always kind of gauge it by the AVs (absentee voters), but my AVs are down.

Bennett indicated her office sent out 481 absentee ballots, but as of July 30, the clerk's department had received only 265 of them back.

"Addison is usually a very strong voting place," she said. "I was anticipating 50 percent, but over the past week (to) week-and-a-half, I lowered my total to 30 (percent)."

Oxford sent out 1,064 absentee voter ballots and as of July 30, 650 had been returned.

Addison has a total of 4,967 of registered voters, while Oxford has 14,865 voters.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Voters, by law, are required to present photo identification such as a driver's license or state identification card. Those without identification must sign an affidavit stating they are who they say they are.

In Oxford, voters cast their ballots at the Oxford Veterans Memorial Civic Center (Precinct 1), Oxford Elementary School (Precincts 2 & 7), Oxford Free Methodist Church (Precincts 3 ), Christ the King Church (Precinct 4 & 5) and Oxford Public Library (Precinct 6).

In Addison, voters mark their ballots at Rowland Hall in Leonard (Precinct 1), the Addison Twp. office in Lakeville (Precinct 2) and Fire Station #1 in Leonard (Precinct 3).

Bennett wished to remind voters that because this is a primary election, they can only cast their ballot for all Republican or all Democratic candidates. "Don't split your tickets," she said. "You can only vote for the Republican or Democratic party section."

Ballots that contain votes for candidates from both parties will be considered void as far as the partisan section is concerned.

However, votes in nonpartisan areas such as circuit court judge and millage proposals will still count, even on split tickets.

Wright wanted to remind voters that the ballot has two sides. He said some folks just fill out the front and leave the back blank.

Wright is excited about the upcoming election because for the first time all seven of Oxford's precincts will utilize electronic poll books as opposed to the old binders full of paper voter lists.

"Eventually, this will help reduce (the time voters spend) getting checked in to get their ballots," he explained. "We're hoping to streamline the process of voting . . . to get more people through the polls quicker and have a better voting experience."

The electronic system will allow poll workers to swipe a voter's state-issued driver's license or identification card through a card reader, enabling the system to automatically locate the person in the state's qualified voter file and check them in as opposed to having the worker manually search through a binder for the voter's name, then check it off with a marker.

Wright noted the old paper voter books will be on hand at each polling place as a backup in the event of a power failure

The electronic poll book has another advantage.

"If somebody comes to vote and they're not in the right precinct, we have the ability to automatically look them up and steer them to the right precinct," Wright explained.

Wright noted Oxford's had the electronic poll books for "a little less than two years." They were provided by the state at no charge to the township.

"We weren't really comfortable using them right away," he said.

One issue was getting the clerk's staff and poll workers trained to use them. The other was waiting for the state to work out the initial bugs with the electronic system.

"It was probably beneficial for us to wait because they've ironed out a lot of the problems that they've had (with) other municipalities," Wright said. "I have probably four versions of electronic poll book instructions that were revised . . . It appears a lot of the issues have been resolved now. So, we'll see what happens on that."

This will be Addison's third year using electronic poll books, according to Bennett.

Ultimately, both Wright and Bennett encouraged voters to make their voices heard at the polls.

"I think there's a lot on the ballot," Wright said. "You have offices up for re-election. You have the ability to vote your party preference. There's (millage) proposals to vote on."

Wright said the primary ballot is going to "set the direction for the next four years" for not only the township, but the country.

"Some of these (races) are important for the whole nation," he said. "It's unfortunate that a lot of people don't exercise their right to vote."

Bennett agreed.

"It's one of our rights as a U.S. citizen," she said. "It's something that we've fought for, so it's very important to vote in every election."

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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