Override Votes Will All Count

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Gila County Recorder Linda Haught-Ortega wants you to know that your school district override ballot will count, despite the fact that the pieces don't fit together perfectly.

In fact, she stopped by the Roundup office Friday morning to provide a demonstration. A story in last Tuesday's Roundup recounted the struggles of Christopher Creek resident James Oliver to get the ballot and affidavit into the return envelope with the address showing through the window.

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Gila County Recorder Linda Haught-Ortega holds an override ballot that's ready to mail. While the address does not align perfectly, it will reach election officials, she promised.

When Oliver then tried to vote in person at the County Recorder's office, he was told that Christopher Creek, Gisela and Whispering Pines could only vote by mail. Frustrated, Oliver is currently in the midst of a telephone crusade designed to get to the bottom of the matter.

"This is your ballot," Haught-Ortega said, holding the white ballot aloft. "It's already tri-folded and it goes right into the feeder (on the new vote-counting machines)."

She demonstrated how the ballot fits correctly into the secrecy envelope, then turned to the affidavit which each voter must sign for purposes of identification and verification. Haught-Ortega, who is a certified handwriting analyst, personally checks each signature against the one on file from voter registration.

And don't worry about your signature changing.

"Signatures do change with age, and we take that into consideration," she said, "especially if it's an old signature and now it's getting shaky."

A ballot is rarely tossed out because of a mismatched signature, but sometimes a form is mailed out asking a voter to file an updated signature.

Once the affidavit is signed, it, and the secrecy envelope containing the ballot, should be placed inside the stamped return envelope with the address window. If this self-sealed envelope appears to be already sealed, carefully pull it open.

"Some (voters) fuss because the glue's kind of stuck, but just pull it up," Haught-Ortega said. "It might tear it, but it'll still work."

The ballot and affidavit will fit inside the return envelope, but it's a snug fit. And while the complete address will not show through the window, Haught-Ortega says it will reach Globe. The only part of the address that is cut off is Haught-Ortega's name, part of the word "Recorder," and the four-digit "plus-four" at the end of the zip code.

"Mr. Oliver said, ‘It will go to a dead letter office,' and I said, ‘No, it won't,'" Haught-Ortega said. "He thinks we did it to keep the elderly from voting."

The real reason things don't fit as well as they might is that the new vote counting equipment was rushed into service by Secretary of State Jan Brewer to qualify for federal funding, not allowing enough time for the companion forms and envelopes to be approved by the U.S. Justice Department.

"It's because of the Florida snafu," Haught-Ortega said. "We had to agree to do it by the end of last year or we wouldn't get the money. It takes about four months to get all the forms cleared."

If you vote in person, you literally hand carry your own ballot over to the scanner, which is similar to a laptop, and feed it in. Your vote is recorded, and the ballot drops into a large black ballot box that the scanner is sitting on.

"It's called an Accu-Vote Optical Scan Voting System," Gila County Elections Director Dixie Mundy said. "On the Optical Scan ballot, all of the voting choices are printed on the ballot." Voters fill in the circle opposite each choice rather than punching out a chad.

Once tallied by the scanner, the votes are stored on a memory card. After all the ballots have been scanned in, the results are transmitted over the phone to a server in Globe.

Special election

Gila County School Superintendent Armida G. Bittner advises qualified electors in the Payson Unified School District of Consolidated Precinct Polling Sites and other pertinent information regarding the May 18, 2004 Special Election:

Payson Precincts 1, 3, 7, 8

Payson First Assembly of God Church, 1100 West Lake Drive

Payson Precincts 2, 4, 5, 6 and Star Valley

Mount Cross Lutheran Church ECLA, 601 East Highway 260

Vote by Mail:

Whispering Pines, Zane Grey, Gisela

Designated sites for voted ballot drop-off or ballot replacement include:

Open: 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Whispering Pines

Whispering Pine Fire Station

Zane Grey

Christopher Creek Bible Fellowship Church

Gisela

Gisela Valley Community Center

Last day to vote early

May 14, 2004 at the Payson Recorder's Office.

Electors are urged to contact the Recorder's Office to advise of any changes that may have occurred in residence, mailing address, etc.

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