Early voting turnout light so far in Branch County

BRANCH COUNTY — By the end of the sixth day of early voting Thursday, only 150 county voters had cast a ballot at the Dearth Center at the Fairgrounds in Coldwater.

Branch County Clerk Terry Kubasiak took advantage of early voting Thursday since she works election day.
Branch County Clerk Terry Kubasiak took advantage of early voting Thursday since she works election day.

Ten poll workers and inspectors staff the center from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. for the nine days of early voting to allow those who cannot or do not want to cast their ballot in the actual Tuesday Republican or Democratic presidential primaries. Early voting ends Sunday.

Coldwater Township Clerk Dianne Morrison, who, with her assistant, is supervising early voting, said, "I believe it's working. It's a great training tool for all the election inspectors, and we're all networking together."

Voters passed the nine-day early voting in November 2020 as part of Proposition 2, a constitutional amendment for election laws.

Morrison worked with Branch County Clerk Terry Kubasiak and other township and municipal clerks to develop the plan to rent the Dearth Center at the Fairgrounds for all 22 precincts. 

Voters receive their ballot then go to the voting booths in the center of the Dearth Cennter to mark them.
Voters receive their ballot then go to the voting booths in the center of the Dearth Cennter to mark them.

None could find help or afford to hold individual early voting in their township or municipal halls for the nine days.

Under the joint agreement, each jurisdiction will be responsible for paying for nine workers for one day. Morrison said only California Township did not have the personnel to participate.

Noble Township Clerk Heidi Metzger worked Thursday. Only one of her township residents voted early by the end of the sixth day.

Morrison said most of the early voters came from Coldwater Township and city of Coldwater. Those are the voters closest to the Dearth Center.

Morrison expects more voters to use the service this weekend.

Earlier story Early voting for presidential primary begins Saturday

Coldwater voters will see a change Tuesday when the Dearth Center is converted to serve the four city precincts for the primary. 

In past elections, each city precinct had its own beginning-to-end voting station.

City Clerk Shawna Chavez liked the early voting setup and will use the system for the city.

All voters enter through the main door, their IDs are checked, and the ballot application is filled out.

Voters then pick up a ballot for their precinct at a single location. Voter booths to cast ballots are in the center of the hall.

When voters are finished, they go to the tabulators and put their ballot in the machine for their precinct. 

Voter assisted terminals print a paper ballot for the tabulator after choices are made on the computer screen.
Voter assisted terminals print a paper ballot for the tabulator after choices are made on the computer screen.

Early voting encouraged the use of voter assisted terminals. These computer screens allow the voter to select each race and then print a ballot with their choices.

After voters review the ballot, it goes into a cardboard sleeve for privacy before being entered into the tabulator.

Any errors on the ballot causes the machine to return the ballot for correction before the vote is added to the totals.

The final voter procedure is to insert the ballot into a tabulator for the proper precinct.
The final voter procedure is to insert the ballot into a tabulator for the proper precinct.

The four early voting tabulators will be sealed and taken to the county clerk's office on Sunday.

By law, the early votes can only be counted after 8 p.m. on election day after the polls close. Each early voting machine has several jurisdictions in the tabulator.

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The clerk will add early voting totals to the proper precinct election day results. 

Mailed or drop box-cast absentee ballots are counted on election day at each precinct.

-- Contact Don Reid: dReid@Gannett.com

This article originally appeared on Coldwater Daily Reporter: Turn out light for centralized presidential primary early voting