For Cape Girardeau County Clerk Rodney Miller, testing the county's voting machines is a sign of election time.
On Friday, Miller, director of elections Patty Schlosser and election judges Mary Birk and Betty Hahs tested the working order of the 28 voting machines that will be used in the Aug. 2 elections. The machines all worked fine. Election officials go through the test before every county election.
Friday's tests consisted of running several differently marked ballots through each machine and comparing the machine's numbers to hand-counted results. Election officials also checked the machines to make sure they had enough printing tape and enough ink. Each machine prints out the tabulated results, and machines also have memory cards that a computer reads on election night.
"We don't get mistakes in the equipment, but sometimes we'll have a memory card that needs replacing or a machine wants to be a little bit contrary," Miller said. "That's the purpose of this, to make sure that's not happening."
Usually, problems with the equipment are a result of human error. Schlosser said a common problem is that poll judges sometimes forget to take the bar out of the ballot box that blocks ballots from going in before the election begins. She said poll judges have a set of directions to help.
"If they follow the instructions on the paper, then they don't have any problems," she said.
After testing each machine Friday, election officials sealed in the memory cards and zeroed out all of the machines' counters. On Aug. 2, polling judges at each precinct again will have to make sure the counters read zero.
"It's checked by all those who work at the election, which might be 6 people or four people or 10 people," Birk said. "The workers all have to sign the tablet to verify that the machine works."
Cape Girardeau County began using the optical scanning voting machines in June 2004. The federal Help America Vote Act requires that all precincts have the machines before 2006.
Major issues on the ballot this election are a one-half percent Cape Girardeau city sales tax increase for transportation and a tax levy increase of 49 cents for Jackson school improvements.
335-6611, extension 127