By PAUL SIMS
Oktibbeha County voters may go the polls this August without an external printer as an extra measure to assure a correct ballot, a feature at least one official says voters rarely use.
On Monday, the Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to support the effort to seek federal permission to remove the external printer from the county’s TSX touch-screen voting machines, provided officials consult with party officials on the change. District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer cast the lone dissenting vote.
The external printer includes a plastic lid which voters needed to lift to read the printout of their specific votes. Its initial purpose was for an introductory period of comfort for election officials and voters to become accustomed to the machines, said Circuit Court Clerk Angie McGinnis Monday afternoon.
Based on observation, officials noted very few people in the county “ever actually raised the lid to look at the printed copy,” Also, poll workers have encountered problems with paper jams, McGinnis said, noting that Mississippi’s humidity plays a role in how the paper runs through the machine.
When a printer locks up, two poll workers have to halt voting in the precinct, go to the machine and unlock it, then straighten or change out the paper, she said.
McGinnis said officials will advise Democratic and Republican party officials – as well as supervisors and anyone else with concerns – on the process of printing out election information without the external printers.
After communicating with the local party officials, McGinnis says she’ll draft a letter to the Justice Department seeking pre-clearance to remove the printers. She hopes the county will receive this permission in time for the Aug. 2 primary.
Earlier this year, county voters cast ballots in the special election for Northern District Transportation Commissioner without the printer.
Myles Carpenter, the county’s Election Commission chairman, told supervisors Monday that the software for the initial ballot on the transportation vote was programmed not to use the printer.
“We didn’t know it,” he said. McGinnis said officials discovered the inadvertent programming on Election Day.
Officials advised poll workers to tell voters about the situation and no one has a problem with it, she said.
Polling officials decided locally that to keep the process the same for the Transportation Commission vote, they would opt not to use the printer with the runoff, McGinnis said.
About half the counties in the state have received Justice Department approval to remove the printers, she said.
An internal paper trail for the voting machine remains.
“In the event of a contested race, we would be able to provide all needed materials for review,” she said.
In other matters, the board:
u Voted to approve the county’s Justice Court and Constable maps. As presented at a public hearing Monday, the maps show a few changes from the previous version, lowering the deviation in population from the ideal figure of 15,890 per district to 3.25 percent.
District 3 Justice Court Judge says the county’s three judges have reviewed the changes and “we don’t have any objection.”
u Authorized the Golden Triangle Planning and Development District to begin printing cards to notify county residents of changes in their addresses as officials update the county’s Master Street Address Guide with geographic information system-based data.
u Decided to move ahead with elements of the proposed Unity Park to coincide with the county education building under construction without naming local people on permanent displays in the park. Trainer suggested Dorothy Bishop’s name be recognized as one of those who helped make it happen.
“I think this will put the icing on the cake and settle this whole situation,” Trainer said. District 3 Supervisor Marvell Howard said the original agreement on the park called for not naming individuals.
“Nobody’s discounting the effort that Ms. Bishop has made, but I think if this board starts to put names on plaques, we’re opening up a can of worms,” Howard said.
Trainer cast the only dissenting vote on the matter.
u Agreed to place some 45 acres of county property adjacent to Oktibbeha County Lake under the jurisdiction of the state Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. Officials fielded reports of hunting activity on the spot.
u Corrected appointments to the Oktibbeha County Economic Development Authority to reflect five-year terms and reappointed the following to the panel: Jack Wallace, John Campbell, Tommy Perkins and Bobby McClelland. The board also decided to appoint Helen Taylor to the OCEDA board, taking the slot previously held by Joe Williams.
u Agreed to a temporary transfer of a Sheriff’s Department vehicle for use by the probation officer working with the county’s new Drug Court until another vehicle can be obtained.