WELLSBURG - Brooke County officials have been preparing for next week's general election by running tests on the electronic voting machines to be used by voters to cast ballots for offices ranging from president to county sheriff.
County Clerk Sylvia Benzo said she and Brooke County Commissioners Marty Bartz, Tim Ennis and Norma Tarr met to run routine tests on the machines, including casting straight-party votes for Democratic and Republican candidates, casting no votes and using the onscreen write-in option.
"Everything appeared to be working correctly," Benzo said.
The test for write-in votes, while a part of routine election preparations, is of particular concern because Mike Allman has filed with the Secretary of State's office as a write-in candidate for sheriff. Allman was defeated in a three-way Democratic race for sheriff won by Chuck Jackson in May but is making another bid for the position as a write-in candidate.
Benzo said she's been instructed by the Secretary of State's Office to count write-in votes on the night of the election. She said for technical reasons, election clerks can't separate write-in votes for the sheriff's race from other write-in votes.
Noting there are a number of official write-in candidates for president, she said all must be counted together.
But write-in votes cast at each precinct are collected in a terminal there, so she and the other election clerks will be able to report them as they come in with each precinct's other totals, Benzo said.
She said it should take about two hours to tabulate all of the votes, provided totals come in from each precinct in a timely manner, following the closing of polling sites at 7:30 p.m., and no computer glitches occur.
Benzo noted early voting will continue at the county courthouse from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today through Saturday. She said so far about 1,000 registered county voters have cast early votes, compared to about 1,500 during the last presidential election. For information, call Benzo's office at (304) 737-3661.
Because of the election, the commission won't meet next week.
In other matters, Bob Fowler, the county's emergency management director, said Brooke County has been fortunate to have missed the brunt of Hurricane Sandy.
Fowler said there were a few incidents of fallen trees on roads and vehicles damaged by fallen rocks on state Route 2 north of the Market Street Bridge, but overall damage was minimal.
He said up to 4 inches of rain fell in the county but local creeks appear to be receding and the Ohio River is expected to crest at 30.1 feet, below flood level, this afternoon.
Fowler said several residents serving on the volunteer Community Emergency Response Team were on hand to assist local emergency departments. He said while working at the county's emergency command center in Beech Bottom, some radio problems were discovered and he will be working to correct those.
The commission also heard from George Ash, president of the Hancock-Brooke Veterans Memorial Park, who asked the commission for money to help with repairs and maintenance at the park, which is by the Downtown Weirton off-ramp from U.S. Route 22 to state Route 2.
Established by a group of volunteers headed by the late Henry DeMasis, the park includes several pieces of military equipment, including a Vietnam War-era plane made with materials from Weirton Steel.
Ash said five areas of the park's fence have been damaged by deer and, he believes, youth attempting to climb it. He added the memorial brick pavers that comprise the park's walkway are sinking and need to be reset.
He said lighting is in place for the park, but the volunteer group behind the park can't afford to light it every night.
Ash said the park isn't in Weirton's city limits but he has asked Weirton Council for $500 for maintenance and repairs and plans to seek funds from the Hancock County Commission also.
Ash said he also is seeking help from state legislators, including state Del. Ronnie Jones, D-Hancock, who accompanied him to the meeting.
County Commissioner Tim Ennis said he would like to help, but the commission must review its budget first. He suggested Ash seek a transportation enhancement grant from the state Department of Transportation and offered for the commission to serve as the government entity through which it could be issued.
"We appreciate the park and we know veterans in the area appreciate it. It's a beautiful park," Ennis said.
(Scott can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)