On Friday morning, county officials were sitting around a table at the former Bauer Lumber Co. building talking about election nightmares of the past.

There was the primary election of 2004 when it took about 20 hours for election officials to count the returns from Marion County’s 75 precincts.

There were problems with the optical scanners that night and with voters who had marked ballots in unusual ways. The division of some races on the ballot caused “overvoting,” which kicked out thousands of ballots to the resolution board, where voter intent had to be determined.

The last precinct was tabulated at 3:27 p.m. that Wednesday, the day after the primary election. That election caused some big changes in the way Marion County votes. Within six months, Marion became the first state county to wholly adopt e-voting, using touch-screen voting machines in all of the precincts.

If you compare the primary election of 2004 and 2006 ... well, there’s just no comparison, Commission President Cody Starcher said.

On Tuesday, iVotronic voting machines began to arrive from the precincts shortly before 8 p.m. The last machine was in the county’s hands by 9:17 p.m. The last vote was tabulated before 10 p.m.

“It went very well, and I contribute 99.9 percent of it to the expert employees we had working at the polls and here election night,” Starcher said.

The Bauer building, purchased by the county last year, became election headquarters because of the vast space it affords. Officials also took advantage of the bay doors on the front and the back of the building. The poll workers drove their cars straight through the building to drop off the machines and equipment.

“There are drive-thru banks and drive-thru restaurants, and now there’s a drive-thru election headquarters,” Commissioner Randy Elliott said. “We’re right up with the times.”

While the county didn’t have the Bauer building in mind as an election headquarters when it was purchased, the fit couldn’t have been better, Starcher said. No matter what the future plans for the building are, he said that he wants to continue to use the East Side riverfront location as a place to count the ballots.

It will also be the place the official election canvassing board will convene at 10 a.m. Monday morning. The board, made up of the commissioners, will certify the election, determine whether to count challenged ballots and provide the official returns.

There are very specific guidelines the commission follows when deciding whether to accept a challenged ballot. Those guidelines are provided by the secretary of state’s office and are followed by each county in the state.

For instance, if a registered voter has changed names and there is no other valid challenge, the ballot can be counted. Voters moving within their precinct is also permitted, as well as moving to a new precinct and voting at the polling place served by that precinct.

An instance where a provisional ballot could be rejected is when a voter attempts to cast a ballot in a polling place that doesn’t serve the new address. If a voter attempts to cast a ballot for a political party other than the one the voter is registered as, the ballot is also rejected. All political party changes must be made at least 20 days before an election.

E-mail Misty Poe at mpoe@timeswv.com.

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