Early voting through Nov. 2

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-116181114429211.jpg’, ‘Photo By Stuart R. Wahlin’, ‘An early voter requests a paper ballot after difficulties with electronic voting.’);

A new state law allows voters to hit the polls early without having to state a reason. Before 2006, the privilege of early voting was reserved solely for absentees. Anyone registered in Winnebago County is welcome to vote between Oct. 16 and Nov. 2. Voters are reminded to bring a government-issued photo ID.

The early polling place for Rockford is the Board of Election Commissioners office at 301 S. Sixth St. This location will also be open on weekends through the early voting period.

“We’ve been busy continually,” Board of Election Communications Assistant Executive Director Marcia Clabough reported. “A lot more than last year.” Clabough hopes the increase is an indicator of a higher voter turnout for the General Election.

The Rockford Board of Election Commissioners saw in excess of 500 ballots cast during the first five days of the early city voting. Only paper ballots are available for city residents.

Voters who live outside of Rockford can cast their ballots at the Winnebago County Administration Building, 404 Elm St., Rockford. Saturday voting is available on Oct. 21 and 28.

Winnebago County Election Supervisor Margie Mullins said, “It was a really big rush the first few days.” Mullins added she’s mostly seeing the same absentee voters from years past, along with election judges who will be working outside their own precincts Nov. 7.

County voters have the option of using electronic voting machines. “The ones who have done the electronic have liked it,” Mullins said. “I’ve heard good things today.”

Not so for one elderly gentleman who requested a paper ballot after first trying his hand with the Diebold voting machine. Asked what he thought of electronic voting, the man replied, “You wouldn’t want to print what I’ve got to say.”

Mullins also said voters had no preference between paper ballots and electronic voting. However, a staffer at the office’s counter said the preference was clearly for paper ballots. Of at least six voters who voted while this reporter was present, all except the gentleman who had problems with the electronic voting machine requested paper ballots.

Inga Palella, of Winnebago, was also more comfortable with a paper ballot. “I don’t know the electronics,” Palella explained. “I don’t trust it, either.”

Opponents of electronic voting argue the machines can easily be tampered with and cite a public statement by Diebold Chief Executive Officer Warren “Wally” O’Dell, pledging to deliver the state of Ohio to President George W. Bush in the 2004 election. Bush won by 118,775 votes in that state. The Diebold CEO was active in the president’s re-election campaign.

Whether performing your civic duty by paper or pixel, Clabough and Mullins simply urge everyone to get out and vote. Mullins concluded, “That’s how your voice gets heard.”

Additional sources: Johns Hopkins study and Blackboxvoting.org

From the Oct. 25-31, 2006, issue

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