Bogalusa line speeds up election returns process

Published 1:07 am Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Through the use of a secured line at Northshore Technical Community College, the Washington Parish Clerk of Court’s office was able to get election returns in faster this Saturday.

With one item on the ballot — the 5th Congressional District runoff where Vance McCallister finished with 60 percent of the vote to Neil Riser’s 40 percent — Clerk of Court Johnny Crain Jr. said Saturday’s election was a good one to try out the new process and work out any bugs.

All parish returns were in by 9:28 p.m., beating Crain’s 9:30 goal by two minutes. He said everything went smoothly, and entering returns in Bogalusa is something his office is looking forward to doing in elections to come.

Crain said his office has being trying for several years to get a secured line in Bogalusa to speed up the process of entering election returns.

The initial plan was to install a line at City Hall, he said. But that would have cost his office several thousand dollars a month, so he began looking at other sources.

Willene Dickerson at the Registrar of Voters office suggested NTCC’s Sullivan Campus in Bogalusa. Crain discussed that idea with Sen. Ben Nevers, who presented the plan to Dean William Wainwright.

All were in agreement, and the Clerk of Court’s office was given the OK to use the college’s secured line, Crain said. In Saturday’s election, as with future elections, returns from Bogalusa, Varnado and Angie precincts were brought to NTCC and entered from there.

Northshore, itself a polling place, is receiving results from about half of the parish’s precincts.

Traditionally, all Bogalusa-area returns were taken to City Hall by the commissioner in charge of each precinct and then brought to the Clerk of Court’s office in the courthouse in Franklinton for the results to be entered, which added 30-40 minutes to the process.

Crain said the new method will save time. He said it will also be safer for the commissioners, since they will not have to drive the results from the eastern side of the parish over to Franklinton on election night.

Explaining the process, Crain said each voting machine has a cartridge that records the votes cast on that machine. The cartridges are brought in to the Clerk of Court’s office in Franklinton or the Bogalusa location and fed into a computer. The computer feeds to the Secretary of State’s office through the secured line, and that is how returns are read.

He said each machine is done separately, and then the staff has to make sure results on the computer match up with those on printouts from the machine.

The Bogalusa results are entered at NTCC using a laptop from the Clerk of Court’s office. Crain said Shannie Bourg of the Secretary of State’s office helped tremendously with getting the necessary programs installed on the laptop and with getting the secured line in place.

Crain said he is excited about the new line and the fact that there was no cost to the people or his office for this project — other than the minor expense of purchasing a router. He also thanked Nevers, Wainwright, Dickerson and Bourg for their assistance with getting the line in place.

During any election, members of the public can visit or use the Secretary of State’s Geaux App to view returns as they are entered.

Before the major elections coming up in the next couple of years, the Clerk of Court’s office plans to introduce a Facebook page and make election results available on the office’s website. Crain hopes to have that in place by 2014.