By Alyssa Schnugg
The Lafayette County Board of Supervisors took its first official step toward going back to paper ballots for future elections.
On Monday, the board approved advertising for bids from election system companies for precinct scanners, ballot-marking devices, accessories, software, testing, rental services and training.
The county went to using direct-recording electronic (DRE) machines around 2007; however, with most counties in Mississippi going back to – or considering going back to paper ballots, the supervisors decided during budget sessions this summer to look into moving back to using the paper ballots.
Bill Lowe, a representative from Election Systems & Software, showed the Board of Supervisors how paper ballots would work and the equipment used, which includes a digital ballot-marking device for voters with hearing, sight or other physical challenged that prevent them from marking a paper ballot.
A voter would mark their ballots with a pen at the poll and then bring it over to a scanner – generally, one or two at each precinct – where the scanner would make sure all boxes were checked and both sides of the ballot filled out. The voter then will have the option to correct their ballot or file it as is. The paper ballot is then dropped to a locked container inside the scanner and the vote is recorded digitally; however, a paper trail is available.
Supervisor Kevin Frye, who ran for the Senate District 9 seat in November, said he saw the system being used in several precincts during the election.
“It seemed to work fine as far as I could tell,” Frye said Monday. “If there’s ever a question about the outcome of an election, you can pull out those boxes and count them by hand.”
Abbeville precinct move
Prior to the demonstration, another voting issue was brought up earlier in the meeting to a standing-room-only crowd.
Last month the board approved changing the Abbeville voting precinct from the Town Hall to Springfield Missionary Baptist Church since the church has a large gymnasium with more bathrooms and parking.
Supervisor David Rikard said after the vote there was a “public outcry.”
“I should have tried to speak with all the residents in District 3 and that is my mistake,” Rikard said at the meeting.
He made a motion to take back the vote from November and bring it back up in January after he had a chance to meet with more Abbeville residents.
The supervisor’s meeting room in the Lafayette County Chancery Building was filled with people who supported the new voting precinct. No one against the move attended the event or spoke out against it.
Lafayette County Election Commissioner Lola Pearson said the move was necessary due to the lack of space at the Town Hall and asked the Supervisors not to change their vote.
Rikard’s motion died for a lack of a second.