Officials from the Talladega County Probate Office reported no major hiccups when voters visited the polls Tuesday, despite numerous changes in the voting process from new laws to the use of new equipment.
Probate Judge Billy Atkinson credited the Talladega County Commission for its assistance in informing the public about these changes and ensuring a smooth transition through voter information cards.
The commission approved a $19,000 budget amendment for these cards during their March 24 meeting, opting to use surplus funds to pay for the expense.
“I think that’s the best money you could’ve spent,” Atkinson said. “I commend the commission on that, because it cut out a lot of confusion.”
Atkinson noted a positive response from the voters despite changes to the races for which they cast ballots due to new district lines being created.
“Overall, I think the public understood this was based on the redistricting, census and Alabama law,” Atkinson said. “I thought the public responded well to it.”
He added the vast majority of the voters were receptive to the photo identification requirements implemented by Section 17-9-30 of the Code of Alabama.
“Believe it or not, I can tell you at most polling sites where we looked, we’ve seen that most of them would come in and reach into their pockets,” Atkinson said. “They already know that they’ve got to have a picture ID. They’ve been doing this for a long time, so we’ve had very little problems with that.”
The county introduced new machines to tabulate the results for the elections.
“The new machines are voter-friendly, and they’re also friendly to the poll worker,” Atkinson said. “It’s new, but the public response to it to me — and I’ve interviewed the voters, public and poll workers and all — they tell me the machine is more friendly than we’ve had before, it’s easier to vote, they like it and it’s also easier for the poll workers.”
Atkinson explained some minor technical difficulties did arise early on when the some of the machines were first activated, but after securing passwords for the machines from the company, the machines were reactivated and ready for use.
“These machines have got a lot of updates, but at the same time, we just have to get familiar with them,” Atkinson said. “Overall, our poll workers did a great job with them.”
Another issue encountered by the poll workers involved the shift from using an electronic component Atkinson referred to as the “black box” to record the votes to using a much smaller USB drive.
When all voting data was compiled at one site and placed into a 10-size envelope, Atkinson said, poll workers discovered the USB drive was misplaced for a brief period.
“There needs to a better way to protect them by putting something inside there to hold those,” Atkinson said. “We had that problem, and we caught it right up front. We’re going to meet with election people in a week or two, and other counties are having some similar suggestions. I think there needs to be a secure area inside those envelope 10s for the (USB) drives.”
Atkinson insisted the lessons learned from the minor issues will be applied in the upcoming elections July 15 and Nov. 4.
“I think that July 15 will be a great opportunity for us to drive this vehicle for a second time, so we’ll become more familiar with it,” Atkinson said.