Voters got new voting machines, but kept their incumbents in the 2019 Indian River School District school board election.
Although official numbers weren’t available mid-week, it appears that less than 400 people voted on Tuesday.
In District 5, Derek Cathell (65 votes) and W. Scott Collins (58) defeated challenger Jeffrey Evans (35) to continue representing Selbyville, Gumboro and southern Frankford.
In District 4, Donald Hattier (230) topped Scott Smith (60) to continue representing Frankford, western Dagsboro and coastal Delaware.
There was no contest in District 3, so Heather Statler will retain her seat in the Millsboro/Long Neck area.
Terms are five years and begin on July 1. The Department of Elections will review and verify official results in the next few weeks.
All the winning candidates have sent children to IRSD schools, and most are IRSD alumni.
Statler was originally appointed to the board in 2015. She has run unopposed in 2016 and 2019. With a doctorate in education, she works at Delaware Technical Community College.
Hattier, a chiropractor, first joined the board in 2002 and has maintained his seat for 17 years.
District 5 will continue to be represented by two police officers. Selbyville Police Chief Collins joined the board in 2011 and has won reelection in two subsequent elections. Cathell is a detective for the Major Crimes Unit of the Delaware State Police. He was appointed to the board and won that seat again in 2018.
This week’s election results mean the IRSD school board will continue to have three police officers on a board of 10 people, as Georgetown board member Rodney Layfield is also the commander of DSP Troop 4.
New machines get an ‘A’
On an otherwise typical election day, many voters were surprised to be handed a paper ballot and directed toward a new computerized voting booth.
On Tuesday, Sussex County tested 20 machines at eight locations. They tabulated more than 7,300 total votes in multiple school board elections across the county. Check-in was also done on a computer tablet, rather than the familiar packets of paper.
Using the new electronic voting machines involved sliding a physical ballot into the machine, tapping a 32-inch computer touchscreen to select preferred candidates, and then confirming the ballot through a glass window before it was sucked into the machine.
“The reception was really good, and people seemed to like them,” said Kenneth McDowell, director of the Department of Elections’ Sussex County office. “They got better vision with them, and clearer … sort of like a color TV.”
Previously, people had to press a specific ‘X’ button next to the candidate’s name. The new machines have a wide touchscreen button around the candidate’s name. The change may help voters with weak dexterity or fine motor skills.
The computer screen asks people several times to confirm their votes, up to and including asking people to read the physical paper ballot, which slides into a glass-covered box, for one final confirmation.
“It really prompts you — that’s the truth, and that’s what they want: Make sure people get what they want to vote for,” McDowell said. “At several times, you can stop the process and start over. If you voted for the wrong person, you can stop several times along the way.”
The United States at large is taking a closer look at election integrity and verification. Delaware purchased the ExpressVote XL by Electionware, partly funded by $3 million of Congress’s nationwide investment in election security. (It will cost Delaware $13 million total to run the 2020 election, McDowell said.)
“You get to see actually what you voted for,” said McDowell. “In the end, I get to keep your paper receipt. If I had a recount, I would actually use the paper receipt, instead of taking the number off the machine. … That’s what they want you to be able to do.”
If needed, the department has a machine to automatically re-count the physical ballots.
The old machines had a capacity of 1,200 cast votes. Voters may remember the 2017 referendum when both Lord Baltimore Elementary School machines met their capacity, and voters ended the day writing their votes on makeshift paper ballots.
The new machines use a physical bin, which holds up to 700 ballots at a time and can be easily replaced throughout the day. Otherwise, the machine and software have no limitations. It’s just a matter of providing plenty of ballots and bins.
The old machines had been used since 1996 and will be retired on June 30. The Woodbridge School District may be the last to use them in May, when they re-do their previously failed current-expense funding referendum.
Otherwise, all the old machines have been hauled to Milford. People are welcome to purchase the machines by contacting an election commissioner, including Sussex County Department of Elections at (302) 856-5367.
“The voters really had high praise for the machine yesterday,” McDowell said of the new machines. “All of us that worked at the poll or visited the polls scrutinized how it worked in general. We gave it an ‘A.’”
By Laura Walter