Receive practice on electronic voting machines

Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr., Alice Echo-News Journal

Jim Wells County election judges and clerks are conducting a final round of training before the March 4 Primary.

Nearly 20 election workers met Tuesday afternoon at the Women's Center at the JWC Fairgrounds for a formal training session with Hart InterCivic Training Specialist David Patino, reviewing the basics of the eScan and eSlate. Classes will continue through Wednesday.

For E.G. and Jo Ann Eggemeyer, election season has been part of their family's life.

The Eggemeyers' home is centrally located off of Highway 44 in the Bentonville area, and has been the voting location for Bentonville residents for several years.

"It's been there at least 20 years, a long time," Jo Ann Eggemeyer said. "They wanted to use our home because it's wheelchair friendly and right on the highway. It's real easy to find."

E.G. Eggemeyer said they've had experience with the eSlate machine before, during the Constitutional Amendment election last fall.

The eSlate allows for electronic voting on a tablet-sized computer. The system is also handicapped-accessible, with a voice system for those voters hard of hearing. The Eggemeyers trained on the eScan as well on Tuesday, which accepts paper ballots and counts them electronically.

"Before, we just took the paper ballots and put them in the box. I guess they counted them back at the courthouse. This is a little different," E.G. Eggemeyer said, as he put in a ballot into the machine for a second time as a test of the system.

Both he and his wife laughed, as the eScan continued to spit out the old ballot. The system will only allow a ballot to be scanned once.

Jo Ann Eggemeyer said that one year, during a constitutional amendment election, only 12 people showed up on election day.

She said that for a contested race like this, especially one during a presidential election, she expected anywhere from 120 to 150 Bentonville residents to pass through her home on election day.

Tuesday was also an opportunity for the couple's daughter, Shelly Juranek, to get some added training on the eScan. Juranek is an election clerk for Precinct 19.

When asked why she was volunteering her time for the election, Juranek responded "why not?"

All three had little difficulty operating the eScan system. They all said they were confident about having a smooth election next Tuesday.

Patino spends his days travelling all over the state, training residents and county employees.

He said there isn't any question he hasn't heard over the years. His favorite classes are the large groups, such as the one on Tuesday.

"A lot of time, it's just a matter of people overcoming their fears of working with the computers," Patino said.

"They have an idea that it's very different, but really, the voting process is the same, it's just updated."

Patino believes the public will eventually come around to using the eSlate for electronic voting more and more as time goes on.

"A lot of voters are resistant, but one day…," Patino said, "they'll come around."