TUPELO – Upgraded voting machines will be in use at Lee County precincts beginning with this summer’s primary races.
The county’s election commissioners convened Tuesday morning to examine new scanning machines that will be used to count paper ballots.
“I’m just thrilled Lee County has stepped into the modern age,” said Shelia Landsell, election commissioner for District 2.
Things won’t change all that much. Voters will still mark their selections on a paper ballot, a feature the Lee County Board of Supervisors has been very keen to retain.
Once the paper ballot is marked, voters at Lee County precincts will continue inserting those ballots into a tabulation device, as is done now.
This device scans and digitally records the ballot, but the new devices expected to go into use this year have several upgrades not previously available here in Lee County.
Once the ballot is inserted and scanned, each voter will have the option to review any warning messages that may exist.
For example: voters will be notified if they have skipped any races or if they have selected too many names for a given race.
If a voter selects too many names in a given race, none of the selections for that race are counted as valid.
Lee County’s new tabulation devices will allow a voter to retrieve a ballot invalidly marked and select again.
Party primaries will be June 5 with a general election on Nov. 6.
District 1 Election Commissioner Carl Patterson doesn’t think most voters will find the changes that significant.
The new machines will make a difference for election preparation and voting day reliability, in Patterson’s view.
The current ballot tabulators were mostly purchased second hand from Lowndes County in 2005, the devices date back to 1992.
This aging equipment had become unreliable and difficult to repair.
“We’ve had to swap one out on election day,” Patterson said.
Circuit Clerk Camille Roberts Dulaney began advocating for new tabulation machines back in the summer of 2016, eventually winning support from supervisors last year.
Lee County is one of only a small handful of Mississippi counties that use paper ballots. Most counties use a fully electronic voting system.