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Reflections of historic election

With the presidential election just a month away, some courthouse employees are thinking back to the last presidential election, when thousands of absentee ballots had to be counted after the polls closed. The 2008 election saw a record 42.53% of Pike voters casting absentee ballots ‘“ and all 4,402 had to be counted by hand. The Nov. 6 presidential election will be much different and results will be available much quicker because the county will use direct recording equipment voting machines to tally the residents’ votes. The machines were bought by Pike in 2009 after the purchase was authorized by the commissioners. ’It has saved the county a lot of money by purchasing the DRE voting machines,’ said registrar Sandi Chamblin. ‘We don’t have to have as many poll workers to work early voting and it doesn’t take voters nearly as long. It was a long, tedious process. We had to make sure we had enough ballots because the turnout was so great for the presidential election. The ballots cost the county around $2 each, so we’ve saved a lot of money by buying the machines and not having to buy ballots for each election.’ Four years ago, long lines formed at each of Pike’s polling stations. It took people up to 30 minutes to vote with the paper ballot because they had to mark the ballot, fold it, put it in a white envelope, seal it, put the white envelope in a yellow envelope, seal it and then fill in their information and sign the oath. ’We had people who had to wait two and a half hours during early voting because of all the steps people had to go through to vote,’ Chamblin said. Early voting will start Monday, Oct. 15 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will be held through Nov. 2 in the new addition of the courthouse. Instead of paper ballots, as were used in the past, the votes will be cast electronically and results will be available much sooner the evening Election Day, Nov. 6. ’We always encourage people to vote early because it does cut down on the stand in line time at the precincts and parking can be a problem at several of the precincts,’ said election superintendent Lynn Brandenburg. ‘Whenever people voted early before, they had to vote by paper ballots. Now their votes are recorded on electronic voting machines and tabulation takes only a few minutes. I remember we were just overwhelmed and had to do what we had to do to get it done. We had everyone working together to open the envelopes, count the ballots and feed them by hand through the optical scan counter. We still have optical scan counter to count mail-in absentee and provisional ballots but we usually have just over 100 so doesn’t take nearly as long.’ Due to construction at the courthouse, it is undecided where local election results will be posted, but that information will be available closer to the election date. In 2008 it was almost 1 a.m. before results were posted. ’It was my first presidential election in 2008 and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to stick with the job. But Pike County has come a long way since then,’ said Chamblin.

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