GEORGE COUNTY, Miss. (WKRG) – Election commissioners in George County saID voters can be sure their ballots will be secure and processed successfully come Election Day.

The five commissioners tested all 24 of the tabulation machines this week to make sure they passed a thorough 60-point checklist. The board made sure every scanner could process ballots no matter how they were inserted and the computer read the test ballots exactly as they were marked.

It is the first general election in both George and Greene counties that will be using paper ballots. Most counties in Mississippi have used electronic voting machines since the state legislature funded them in 2006. In April, Governor Tate Reeves signed a bill requiring every county to revert back to paper ballots by 2024.

“Even though the [electronic] machines were tested with the same process and it worked and it was proven, the voter wants to hold their ballot. They want to mark it, they want to see it,” said George Co. Circuit Clerk Chad Welford. “And if you ever have a contested election with a paper ballot, that can be pulled out and hand-counted.”

The 24 scanners, one for each precinct and two backups, were purchased this past Spring with rebates for the electronic voting machines and other state funds. They are not WiFi capable; results go on to a flash drive that is read at the courthouse after polls close.

One piece of touchscreen equipment designed for voters with disabilities was also purchased and tested for each precinct. When the county used all paper ballots in the past, the commission could expect to stay late into the night counting ballots with one central tabulation machine. With the new system, voters insert their own ballots into the scanner to be read and counted before being dropped into a lockbox underneath. 

Part of the testing also included making sure the machines notified the voter if a marking was illegible and if they voted twice or not at all for a race. When the machine signals those issues, the voter can choose to have their ballot returned to correct it. They can also ask the Poll Manager to spoil the returned ballot and receive a fresh one to use. (Only two requests to spoil and issue a new ballot are allowed.)

“I think the overall response from the voters from the new machines have been positive. A lot of our voters used it in the June primary. This election will be bigger, so we’re slowly introducing voters to the new process. And it’s getting great results for us so far,” said Election Commission Chairman Caleb Howell.

The process for absentee ballots remains the same. They are counted by an appointed Resolution Board as soon as polls close. The members must unanimously decide on the voter’s intent when any marking is called into question.

The circuit clerk’s office will be open from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. until noon on Saturday, Oct. 29, and Nov. 5 – the last day to vote absentee in person.

All absentee ballots submitted by mail must be received within five days of Election Day: Tuesday, Nov. 8. Polls will be open then from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.