CHARLESTON -- A handful of counties in the state plan to continue using paper ballots in upcoming elections despite urging from the state and federal government that new electronic voting machines are better at the polls.

Wyoming, Grant, Braxton and several other counties complied with new federal laws requiring every precinct to have at least one handicapped-accessible voting machine in this month's primary.

Instead of totally transitioning to the touch-screen equipment like most other counties, they bought one machine for each precinct, kept their old paper ballot voting system and let voters decide for themselves which way to vote.

"Some of our elderly made it quite clear that if we were only going to have (electronic machines), they just weren't going to vote," Wyoming County Clerk Mike Goode said this week. "We just want to give everybody a choice, and it seemed to work."

At least a few of the counties that provided a couple of options for voters all had significantly higher turnout than what the state averaged with a disappointing 26 percent of voters showing up at the polls.

Braxton County reported 34 percent turnout, Wyoming County had nearly 31 percent and Grant County had a whopping 40 percent voter turnout.

Wyoming County's turnout was incorrectly reported by the Secretary of State's Office as 47 percent, but Goode said actual numbers still were promising in an off-year election.

Harold Hiser, clerk of Grant County, said this week his county seriously debated making the total transition to electronic equipment, but feedback from the public deterred them from giving up their old system.

"They have been encouraging us to go the electronic route, but I don't think that's really what people want," Hiser said. "We really felt like the older voter might not take to the machines, but we're hearing now that might not be true. Maybe they will, but we felt it didn't hurt anything to give them a choice."

Congress mandated that by this year all states had to abandon the controversial punch-card voting system, once used in Kanawha County, in favor of new computerized or touch-screen equipment. The change was spurred in part by the recount fiasco in Florida during the 2000 presidential election.

Places that still use the old pen-and-paper voting system had a little more flexibility.

David Thompson, chairman of the Wyoming County Democratic Executive Committee and a county commission candidate there, said voters were well informed about the new touch-screen systems. One machine was on display in the Wyoming County Clerk's office for weeks before the election and demonstrations were held all over the county as they were across the state.

Goode, the county clerk, said about one-third of voters chose to use the new machines instead of sticking with paper ballots.

Officials there said they think they've had a better response to the new equipment because it wasn't forced upon voters.

"We were made fun of because ours was one of the counties where the clerks said they weren't going to switch," Thompson said. "Ironically, that's what a lot of the problems occurred and I think a lot of the people ended up wishing they'd done what we did."

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