Archive for Thursday, August 3, 2006

Waugh, Ballinger win races

August 3, 2006

Democrats came to the polls Tuesday more than usual, Republicans about the same, but both parties had a common bond with new voting machines.

Democrats re-elected Janet Waugh to the state board of education in the biggest local race on the ballot. Republicans re-elected Jan Ballinger as Palmyra Township Clerk in the only local race and helped elect State Sen. Jim Barnett to run against Gov. Kathleen Sebelius in November's general election.

Ballinger defeated Don Johnson, but by a very close margin. She had 206 votes to Johnson's 194. The vote won't be official until Douglas County Commissioners canvass the vote Friday. Waugh had 7,147 votes to easily outdistance Jesse Hall, who had 4,260.

But, regardless of political party, the returns on the voting machines used for the first time in Douglas County gained rave reviews.

"People have loved them," said Becky McMillen, a poll worker at the Baldwin City Fire Department. "If you make a mistake, it will tell you that. You can vote again, up to three times. We couldn't do that before."

What happens is voters now put their own ballot into a counting machine. If the voter has miss marked the ballot, the machine will identify the error and gives a choice to redo the ballot or accept it. The voter can either leave it as is or remark the ballot.

In the cases where a voter makes a mistake and votes for both candidates, the ballot is "spoiled" and thrown away, with another ballot taking its place.

"It gives you a second chance," said Danny McMillen, who also works the polling area.

Although polling workers were trained on the machines and came in early Tuesday to make sure everything was working, there were some nerves. But, as the day progressed, the advantages to the machines were obvious.

"Oh, yes, it's nice," said D. McMillen. "We had stomach butterflies this morning."

All precincts in the county also had voting machines to help the disabled be able to vote in private. However, no one used the machine at the fire department, the McMillens said.

The McMillens have worked the polls for years and thought the turnout was just about what was expected.

"It's very light," said B. McMillen. "It was dead this afternoon, but picked up after 5 p.m."

"It's mostly Democrats," said Sue Coon, another poll worker. "About half of them."

The machines made Tuesday night's vote counting quicker, too. The hard drive from the machines were taken to the Douglas County Clerk's office and inserted into a computer, which streamlined the usual process.

"Oh, yes, it made it a lot faster," said D. McMillen.

Ballinger regained her position as township clerk, a post she has held since 2001 when she was appointed to it. Ballinger and Johnson were both Republicans, which forced the primary. There is no Democratic opposition for the November general election, so, barring a successful write-in candidate, she will again be clerk, pending Friday's canvass.

"I feel fairly confident," said Ballinger. "Until Aug. 4 rolls around, I'm not going to celebrate. Twelve votes. That is so close. I just feel so lucky. I wanted it so badly for the township. I don't think Donny did.

"I am so relieved, but there's that 1 percent out of 100 that it could change," she said. "There could be a recount. I wouldn't be surprised."

Waugh had the same situation in her race for District 1 State Board of Education. She faces no Republican opposition in the general election. She was a member of the board's moderate minority that failed to keep science standards in the state. Other primary races on the board around the state make it appear that the moderates will take control of the board which should bring the teaching of evolution back to state schools. The conservative majority had changed that, making the state the laughingstock of the nation and world.

Hall had raised three times the campaign money in his attempt to wrest the board position from Waugh. However, she gained 63 percent of the vote.

"Obviously, money can't buy elections," said Waugh. "I think the people of Kansas are tired of being the laughingstock not only of the nation, but the world."

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