(T-G Photo by Clint Confehr)
Meanwhile, today is the last day to vote early in the May 2 primaries to nominate candidates in contested races for sheriff, county mayor and trustee. The election office in the county courthouse will be open until 5 p.m.
New voting machines are needed to bring the county into compliance with the federal Help America Vote Act, (HAVA), County Elections Administrator Anna Clanton said yesterday.
Tennessee's Election Coordinator's office has made $150,000 available to Bedford County for the purchase of 19 voting booths that have special equipment to accommodate people who can't hear, see or move easily with the current voting machines.
The $41,200 difference between the cost of the machines and the amount of the state grant will be held by the coordinator's office as a source of money to pay for "pre-approved supplies" at voting precincts, Clanton said.
Examples include signs and, where there are gravel parking lots, mats might be placed for people in wheelchairs.
The 19 machines will be placed at all 18 precincts and at the election office for early voting. They're to arrive in time for the Aug. 3 county general election when the political parties will conduct their primaries for the state and federal elections in November.
"They are the MicroVote machines," Clanton said of the machines manufactured by an Indianapolis, Ind., company. "But they're like a laptop computer that can be lifted up and placed on the voters' lap.
"It'll also have earphones, and for someone who is blind that means they'll be able to cast their ballot in private for a change," she said.
Previously, an election poll worker hired by the county would have to assist such a voter.
"And it will have different languages, but I have very few Hispanics who are registered, or others who hardly speak English," Clanton said.
Election Commission Chairman Allen Pitner said the commission strives to make voting more accessible, "and this helps us attain that goal."
Election Commission Secretary Danny Robbins said getting the HAVA compliant machines "means easy voting for everybody and ... it means we're in the 21st Century."