In response to concerns about glitches with some voting machines in Virginia, election officials in Botetourt County will be counting votes by hand for the June 9 Republican primary. The decision to go old-school, made Friday by the county’s electoral board, comes amid growing concerns about WinVote touch-screen voting machines, which are used in about 20 percent of Virginia’s precincts, including those in Botetourt. A vote to decertify the machines statewide could be taken as early as next week at a Virginia Board of Elections meeting in Richmond. In anticipation of not being able to use the WinVote machines for the June primary, the electoral board accepted a recommendation from Registrar Phyllis Booze: Borrow three voting machines from a vendor with whom the county is negotiating the purchase of all the equipment that it will need for the November elections.
Only three machines are needed because the primary — for the Republican nomination for a House of Delegates seat currently held by Chris Head — involves just two precincts in the southern part of the county. A third machine is required for absentee voting. The new ExpressVote machines produce a piece of paper, indicating the votes a user has just cast, that is then fed into an optical scanner that counts the vote and preserves it. The key advantage is a paper trail not left by the WinVote machines.
Because it was not economically feasible to use the scanning part of the system for the June primary, Botetourt officials plan to have voters take the pieces of paper produced by the ExpressVote and place them in wooden ballot boxes that still exist. The ballots will then be counted by hand after the polls close.
With just two precincts in play for a primary that traditionally does not draw large numbers, the task of counting the votes is not expected to be too burdensome.