HJ/EDHerald Journal, Jan. 2, 2006

Townships brace for new law requiring electronic voting

By Lynda Jensen

The start of a new year brings possible future headaches as area townships brace for a new law to kick in – which took effect Jan. 1 – that requires all elections to be conducted with electronic voting machines.

The machines, which have yet to be approved by the federal government, will be designed to allow any person, regardless of disability, to cast a vote independently and privately without any assistance from public officials.

This sounds simple, but the problem is that the machines proposed are ornate and expensive, and require expensive programming each election, noted Middleville Township Clerk Joey Berg.

“The expensive part is the programming needed every election,” Berg said.

The new voting machines should be able to accommodate any voter, even one who is nearly incapacitated in the way of a disability, to cast a vote without any assistance whatsoever, Berg said.

“No one I know in the township needs that kind of assistance,” he said.

“We’re hoping that (the law) gets rescinded,” Berg said.

He noted that the government has provided funding for the machines, but that he thought it was the waste of millions and millions of tax dollars to over-compensate for at least some simple things that could be done personally for voters who need assistance, at least in his township.

Most townships have discussed the “Help America Vote Act,” which is how the law is billed, although four clerks reported no discussion yet; Victor, Woodland, Marysville, and Franklin townships.

Camden Township isn’t waiting to be compliant, but asking its voters in March if they wish to move the township annual meeting to November, in order to be in sync with the general year elections, commented Camden Clerk Roger Sauerbrey.

This would allow the township to continue working with the City of New Germany during elections, he said.

In the past, Camden Township officials sit on one side of the voting machine and city officials on the other, allowing use of the same machine, he said.

Likewise, Winsted has worked with the City of Winsted during elections, using the fire hall as its polling location, said Winsted Township Clerk Sue Goebel.

“We’ve discussed it,” reported Hollywood Township Clerk Sherm Steffenson.

His understanding is that the township must place the question of moving the annual meeting from March to November on the agenda a full year before the vote takes place.

However, there is still time since townships will be required to be compliant by the year 2008.

Filings open Tuesday, Jan. 3 for this year's township elections. Those wishing to file should contact their respective town clerk.

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