Scan voting machines, new poll workers eyed for Forge revote

Jan. 19, 2013 @ 09:29 AM

 When the Pigeon Forge liquor referendum comes up again in a few weeks, voters might be talking to different staff at the polling place and using different machines.

The Sevier County Election Commission didn’t make a decision Thursday, but is considering a proposal from a machine manufacturer to let the company use the election to provide a free demonstration of scan machines that would provide paper ballots.

The commission is also considering using an entirely different staff from the poll workers who served in the Nov. 6 election, which Chancellor Telford Forgety overturned after the commission acknowledged staff allowed 289 people from outside the city to vote in the municipal election.

Commissioner Michael Fitzgibbons read a letter sent to the commission by Unisyn Voting Solutions, saying the company was offering to let the commission use machines approved last year by the state in the upcoming election. Fitzgibbons said the company is offering to bring in the machines and train staff on them for free, as well as have personnel present to oversee their use throughout the election process.

“We would save money for the citizens and the people of Pigeon Forge,” he said.

Commissioner Darell Whitchurch said the commission would get a chance to review one of the options it will consider when the state orders a change in machines, which commissioners said is coming in the next year or two.

The machines provide paper ballots, which can be checked using an optical scanner in the event of a recount, or counted by hand.

The commission also indicated it hopes to have different poll workers this time around.

Whitchurch put forth the issue as a question that was likely on the minds of voters after the panel blamed the poll workers for the number of improper votes.

“How many Pigeon Forge poll workers that helped screw this up this time are going to (take part in this election)?” Whitchurch asked.

The other commissioners indicated they are expecting to have a new set of workers for the March 14 revote.

“Under the circumstances, I don’t think we should use anybody from Pigeon Forge because there’s no way to determine fault," Whitchurch said.

They are consulting with state officials and reviewing the Pigeon Forge city charter to see whether it’s feasible to use workers from outside the city.

The commissioners agreed to meet again to review their options for poll workers and to decide on whether to use the new voting machines after they have a chance to learn more about them.

n jfarrell@themountainpress.com