BUENA VISTA, Ga. - Merry Taylor said she thought she
might have to review the new touch-screen voting machines before casting
her ballot Tuesday.
But after watching someone else get a demonstration on the Diebold
machine, the Buena Vista resident said, "It's fairly self-explanatory.
They are much easier than the old machines. I like them a lot. I liked
being able to review it also."
She expected to see a line of people waiting to vote at the Marion
County Courthouse because voters would need demonstrations. But voters
moved through swiftly, with seven machines in service.
Jacquelyn Statham of Buena Vista also was pleased with the new
"Yes, I've voted on the old machines," she said. "These are better, a
lot quicker and more convenient."
Dave Moyser of Buena Vista, formerly of Chattahoochee County, said he
was used to the old lever voting machines.
"I like this better," he said. "The instructions are very clear. You
could read it better. It's easy to change your ballot. I didn't think the
old machines were bad, but I guess this is more accurate."
Those observations pleased Jeff Hintz, a project manager with Diebold,
which won the contract from the state to supply Georgia's 159 counties
with the new voting machines -- 20,000 needed statewide -- for November's
general election. Only Marion and Hall counties used the new machines in
Tuesday's primary elections.
"We have nine people in Marion County today, one at each of the seven
precincts and two of us from out of state," he said. "So far, everybody
seems to accept it. It's simple and easy to use. I don't think anybody has
had a problem using it."
The company's biggest concern, Hintz said, is "just getting training to
the customers with such a short period of time."
Using the new machines "really cut down on our assisted voters," said
Marion County Elections Superintendent James "Bump" Welch. "We've had good
compliments on the machines from everybody. We haven't had any
Michael Barnes, from the Georgia Secretary of State's office, arrived
in Buena Vista about 5:45 a.m. Tuesday to spend the day observing
operation of the new voting machines at all seven Marion County precincts.
As he moved from precinct to precinct, Barnes found no problems.
"I'll be here until the last vote is counted," said Barnes, assistant
director of elections for the Secretary of State Elections Division and
project manager for the statewide rollout of the new voting system.
"We're hearing the same thing in Hall County as here," Barnes said
about 3 p.m. "It's working on all cylinders and voters say they are
satisfied with it."
Barnes watched county voting officials smoothly set up the system in
Buena Vista Tuesday morning in about 30 minutes. If all the machines
across the county came in at the same time -- which almost never happens
-- Barnes said the results could be downloaded in about five minutes onto
a memory card. The rapid return withstanding, accuracy, not speed, is
being stressed during these tests.
Bud Fletcher, former election director in Bibb County, was assisting
the state in checking out the new machines in Marion County. "I have a
list of things they will no longer have to do using these new machines,"
he said. "All the units are handicap accessible, for example. These things
are really, really good."
In the future, Barnes said the state will put election returns on a Web
site and that organizations such as newspapers will be able to have local
returns transmitted directly into their computer systems. The Macon
Telegraph arranged to do that this year by installing a telephone hookup
where ballots are tabulated in Macon.
"We were not ready to use all the available technology this year,"