Write-in methods vary on electronic voting machines

In State Senate District 22, near Clarksville, Democrat Tim Barnes is the only name appearing on the ballot. A dispute during the primaries forced incumbent Rosalind Kurita to run as a write-in candidate, meaning she has to get voters to actually enter her name on electronic voting machines.

In Tennessee there are three ways voters can enter a write-in candidate’s name, depending on the type of machine.

Some electronic voting machines have touch screens where a keyboard appears.

In Montgomery county, one of three in Kurita’s district, voters can write a name in using buttons next to the screen.

Machines in Houston and Cheatham counties use a wheel to highlight and select among candidates. Cheatham county election administrator Sandy Cherry says voters can also use that wheel to select the write-in option.

“Then the next screen that comes up is an alphabetical listing of all the letters A through Z. They will spell the candidate’s name out, then hit ‘accept.’ Then it will take them out of the write-in screen and show that they have written in a name in the write-in spot.”

Cherry says the process is simple but takes time. She says the entries will be tallied by the two Democrats and two Republicans who also total absentee ballots.

But what if voters can’t remember exactly how to spell a write-in candidate’s name? State Election Coordinator Brook Thompson:

“Well, you should do the best you can. Campaign officials cannot give you any information about that. Poll workers are there to help you use the machine, but the ballot speaks for itself, and if you’re going to write somebody in, you need to know who you’re writing in and in which race you want to write them in.”

Thompson says the spelling doesn’t have to be perfect; so long as the intent of the voter can be discerned, the vote will be counted.

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