By David Hotle, The JOURNAL
With the Nov. 7 elections a week away, the Washington County Auditor?s office is looking forward to testing the new set of voting machines that the county recently purchased, including a computerized precinct atlas and new ballot scanners.
While the county has considered getting new machines for several years now, the decision to move ahead came when the new voting machines became state mandated. The new machines cost about $100,000, to which Auditor Dan Widmer said he feels the machines are well worth the cost. He said the new equipment also takes up less space.
?The equipment we were replacing we had for about 10 years,? Widmer said. ?It was getting to the point that there wasn?t support for it any longer.?
He said the office had looked at the options very carefully. He said the old equipment was traded in for the new machines.
Widmer said the atlas is basically an electronic poll book that will replace the large book formerly used by polling officials to mark off people who have voted. He said the computerized version would speed up the process. An ID scanner will be attacked to the poll book. According to the Iowa Secretary of State, people need to begin showing identification to vote. Polling officials will ask for ID during the Nov. 7 election to get voters used to having to show ID. When a driver?s license is scanned, a field in the declaration of eligibility form to vote will be automatically filled out, where voters had to fill it out by hand previously.
Election official Sue Meeks said most voters won?t notice any difference in the vote scanners. The difference comes at the end of the night when it is time to count the votes. She said poll workers would have an easier time setting it up and there is a more visual screen on the machine. The printout tapes will be more legible and write-in votes also will print out on the tape.
As the election nears, Widmer also responded to the possibility that having a polling location at the United Presbyterian Home, when one of the Washington candidates is married to the administrator, could possibly be a conflict. He said after conferring with the Iowa secretary of state?s office it was determined not to be a conflict.
?Voters vote in private and it is up to them,? he said. ?Also in this case we made the decision to designate the UP Home as a polling place last spring when we found out the old library had been sold. We looked at a few locations and had decided the UP Home would be a good location. For obvious reasons it is impractical to change polling locations predicated on who is on the ballot.?
He also said it is no different from cities where voting takes place at the city hall, where the mayor has an office.
Incumbent mayor Troy McCarthy has filed to seek another four-year term as mayor. Seeking three four-year council seats are newcomer Tim Bean and incumbents Virginia Schuerman and Jared Waters. The polling place will be in the Ainsworth Fire Station at 645 Highway 92.
Incumbent Mayor Robert B. Farley will face off against council veteran David Hagans. In the council race, three people have applied for two positions. On the ballot will be incumbent Charles J. Emry and newcomers Rose Jaynes and David E. McArtor. The polling place will be in the Brighton Municipal Building at 100 E. Washington St.
Running for three positions on the city council are Sheila Baker, Cory Hogue, incumbent Gene Miller, incumbent Carolyn Steele and Catherina Williams. Incumbent Mayor Craig Davey is seeking another four-year term as mayor. The polling place is Crawfordsville City Hall at 105 N. Main St.
Four people will face off for three seats on the Kalona City Council. Incumbents Mark Robe, Joe Schmidt, and Craig Spitzer and incumbent Ronald C. Slechta have filed to seek the offices. The polling place will be the Kalona Public Library at 510 C Avenue.
In Riverside the Mayor?s race, incumbent Allen Schneider will run against newcomer Joseph A. Graff. Running for two seats on the council are incumbents Ralph Schnoebelen and Tom Sexton and newcomers Edgar McGuire and Andy Rodgers. The polling place is Riverside City Hall at 60 Greene St.
In Washington, council member Jaron Rosien will face off against Pete Schaefer for the mayor?s seat. Incumbent Steve Gault is running for a four-year term as the Ward 2 representative. In the Ward 4 contest, incumbents Bob Gaal, Chris Gault and Fran Stigers have all filed papers to run. In the council at-large seat left vacant by council member Cathryn Salazar, newcomers Elaine Moore and Evie Richardson have filed. The polling place for Wards 1 and 4 will be at the Washington County Courthouse at 222 W. Main St. The polling place for Wards 2 and 3 will be the United Presbyterian Home Stewart Hall Chapel at 1203 E. Washington St.
In Wellman, incumbent Mayor Ryan Miller is running unopposed. In the council election, Mark Philpot and incumbent Shannon McCain have filed to run for two open council seats. In Wellman the polling place is Parkside Activity Center at 525 13th St.
In the unopposed West Chester council race, incumbent mayor Chad Peiffer has filed papers to run again. Incumbent council members Steven Lippard and Vanessa Wasson and newcomers Andrew barnhart, Ron Carey and Ruth Lankford have filed to run for five open seats. The West Chester polling place is in the Heritage Building at 510 Main St.
Anyone having questions should contact the Washington County Auditor?s Office (319) 653-7717.