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BENTONVILLE -- Benton County election officials are preparing for next year's presidential election cycle and the prospect of using a new voting system.

The county's three election commissioners for 2015-16 were sworn in and held their first meeting Tuesday. Russ Anzalone, a Republican, was chosen as chairman. Robbyn Tumey, now the commission's lone Democrat, was chosen as secretary. Republican Mike Sevak is the third member of the commission.

Outgoing commission chairman John Brown Jr. expressed confidence in the commission.

"It looks like the Election Commission is in good hands," he said. "It's been a pleasure to have served for these past seven or eight years. I wish you all good luck and condolences."

The commission began to work on election details ranging from finding polling locations to changing precinct lines to adjust for population growth. Arkansas law states voting precincts may have no more than 3,000 voters. Dana Caler, elections administrator for the Benton County clerk's office, told the commission two precincts are over that and three others are close to the limit.

Kim Dennison, election coordinator, said new precincts don't automatically mean establishing new polling places.

"We will have to look at creating more precincts, but not necessarily more polling places because we can have more than one precinct vote at a single polling place," Dennison said.

Dennison also told commissioners about three demonstrations of new voting machines that will be held in Washington County in February and March. The voting machines the state uses are more than 10 years old and replacement systems are being considered.

County election commissions will need some time to learn any new systems and to train election workers, Anzalone said. It's uncertain when new machines might go into service, he said.

"That's the big question," he said.

"These are going to be outdated, although they're still operational," Anzalone said of the machines now in use. "Whatever the state decides we're going to use that's what we'll have to do."

Anzalone hopes the state will accept input from election commissions when choosing new machines and make a decision in a timely manner. He said it would be beneficial if counties can use new equipment in some smaller elections in advance of the 2016 presidential election. He left open the possibility the county still may use old machines in 2016.

"It would depend upon how early we get the new equipment," he said.

NW News on 01/29/2015

Print Headline: Election officials eye new vote systems

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