County offers a write-in how-to

Published 10:33 am Friday, July 18, 2014

With four certified write-in candidates for county offices on the ballot for the general election, a lot of attention has been focused on making sure poll workers know the do’s and don’ts of handling questions about write-in votes.
During the June meeting of the Carter County Election Commission, members of that group voted to approve additional training for poll workers on how to handle questions about the write-in process as well as what they can or cannot say or do.
“We have handouts we are giving to all the poll workers about write-ins,” said Tracy Harris, administrator of elections. “This is from a Power Point presentation from the State of Tennessee at our last seminar in June.”
The handouts Harris is providing to poll workers list the “do’s” and the “don’ts” for poll workers.
“If a voter asks if there are any write-in candidates your answer is that the ballot speaks for itself. Do not provide any names of write-in candidates to the voters. Do not provide any spelling of any write-in candidate’s name,” said one of the handouts.
The second handout covers how poll workers are to assist those wishing to cast a write-in vote. “Explain how the write-in feature on the voting machine works if a voter asks for assistance,” the handout says. “Don’t demonstrate using a write-in candidate’s name. Don’t demonstrate using any political name. Merely demonstrate how to type in a name.”
Harris provided the Elizabethton Star with a list of instructions voters must follow in order to complete a write-in vote.
To cast a write-in vote for an office, a voter must press the button next to “Write-in” on the section of the ballot for the office which they wish to cast the write in vote for. When the voter presses the button next to “Write-in” the screen will change and will show the letters of the alphabet next to the buttons on the machine. The voter then uses the buttons to select the letters in order to type in the name of the candidate they wish to vote for. There are also buttons to enter a space between letters, and an erase button to make corrections.
Once the voter has typed in the name, he or she must push the button next to “Done” to accept the write-in vote. The screen will then automatically return to the regular ballot and the name typed in by the voter will appear under the words “Write-in” and the box next to the name will be checked.
To cancel a write in or enter a new candidate name, press the appropriate “Write-in” button again. The write-in screen will appear again and voters must use the “erase” button to remove the typed in name. Voters can then type in a new candidate name or if they wish to cancel the write-in vote they will hit the button for “done.”
Once the write-in vote is completed, voters can proceed with the rest of the ballot as normal.
In order for a write-in vote to count for the candidate, Harris said election officials must be able to determine the voter’s intent when casting their vote.
For example, if John Smith is running a write-in campaign, the following votes would be countable: John Smith; Johnny Smith; Johnnie Smith; John Smyth; John Smythe; J. Smith; or Smith. However, votes for John; Johnny; or John S. would not be countable as votes for John Smith.
All write-in votes must be hand-counted during the canvasing process, which begins the day after the election. That creates a unique issue for the election commission with the number of certified write-ins for the August election.
“That night when we run everything, it will show the number of write-ins, but it does not mean the candidate got all of those votes,” Harris said during the Election Commission meeting in June. She said the machines tally the number of write-in votes but do not provide a list of who received those votes.

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