Trial run: School board elections in May to feature new voting machines

DOVER — Many voters in Kent and Sussex counties this spring will be getting their first look at the new voting machines that the state of Delaware purchased for $13 million last year.

On Tuesday, May 14, school board elections will take place in seven out of the 11 public schools downstate from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. Public notification on where eligible voters can vote in each school district election is pending.

Elaine Manlove, commissioner of the state’s Department of Elections, expects voters to feel right at home when casting their ballots on the new machines.

“I don’t really see much of a difference with the new voting machines,” Ms. Manlove said. “It seems like everyone who has tried the new voting machines has given us positive feedback about them. I have yet to hear a bad comment.”

Last September, a legislative committee approved the purchase of around 1,500 ExpressVote XL machines to replace the Danaher ELECTronic 1242s, which had been in use since 1995.

The new machines have a voter-verifiable paper trail, meaning voters can ensure the machine records their selections accurately. Delaware was one of five states that had lacked such a trail.

Made by Nebraska-based Election Systems & Software, the specific version of the machine has never been used in any jurisdiction, according to Ms. Manlove. A similar model, which is essentially the same thing but is smaller, has been used in several states.

“We are confident in what we decided to do. I think everybody is on the same page,” Ms. Manlove said, noting the 12 members of the selection committee unanimously agreed Election Systems & Software’s bid was the best one. “I think this is a good system for Delaware.”

While the May school board elections are the first official use of the voting machines, they already have been tested among the general population.

“We took them over to Legislative Hall and to JFC (Joint Finance Committee) and also a life conference for people with disabilities,” said Ms. Manlove. “It’s always important to vote and maybe these machines will bring out some people who might not have voted before.

“We’re still going to do more demos before the 2020 election season. We plan to demonstrate the voting machines at the state’s Democratic Party Convention, a (Voter) Register Committee Meeting and some other events.”

The ExpressVote XL machines function with paper cards, which will be given to voters when they sign in on election day. The voter inserts the card into a slot in the machine and makes his or her selections on the touch screen. The choices are marked on the card for the voter to see. The voter can confirm the accuracy of his or her votes both on the machine and on the card. Cards will be stored in a secure container attached to the machine.

School board races set

With the March 1 deadline to file for a school board election, races statewide have been set for the May 14 election.

School board elections will be held in three of the five Kent County public school districts.

Two candidates will be vying for one at-large five-year term on the Capital School Board, according to the Delaware Department of Elections website.

The pair of Capital candidates include current Board President John C. Martin, Jr., who filed to run for the at-large position on Feb. 21, and Dewitt Peterkin, III, who filed his paperwork for candidacy on Feb. 26.

The winning candidates’ term will begin on July 1 and will end June 30, 2024.

Jessica Marelli, who has served as president of the Caesar Rodney School Board since 2017, is running unopposed for an at-large, five-year term.

William C. Victory Sr., David Buckson and Joyce S. Denman are all vying for an at-large, one-year term on Caesar Rodney’s School Board. Mr. Victory filed to run on Feb. 20, Mr. Buckson on Feb. 25 and Ms. Denham on March 1.

In the Lake Forest School District, three candidates are running to win an at-large, five-year term on the school board that is being vacated by Ronda Swenson on June 30.

Kimberly L. Hurd, Sarah Starkey and Wendy Omans are all running to fill the spot of Mrs. Swenson. Ms. Hurd filed her application to run on Feb. 21, Ms. Starkey on Feb. 22 and Ms. Omans on Feb. 28.

Kristopher R. Thompson is running unopposed for an Area B, five-year term on the Milford School Board, replacing Marvin Schelhouse, whose term expires this year, while Smyrna School Board President Scot McClymont is running unopposed for an at-large, five-year term.

Sussex County contests

In Sussex County, races loom in four of six public school districts for the 2019 school board elections in May.

Three of four board of education seats in the Indian River School District that expire this year are contested. Longtime board member Dr. Donald Hattier of Dagsboro and challenger Scott W. Smith of Frankford are seeking the District 3 term, while in District 5 incumbents W. Scott Collins of Selbyville and Derek Cathell of Frankford face challenge from Jeff Evans of Selbyville.

Dr. Heather Statler of Millsboro (District 3) is unchallenged and will retain her seat on the IRSD board. She was the first candidate to file, way back in late November.

Mr. Smith filed Feb. 27, two days before the March 1 filing deadline with the Sussex County Department of Elections.

All terms in Indian River are five years, running from July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2024.

The contested race in the Seaford School District is between Dara L. Savage and Shawn T. Garrahan while in Delmar, incumbent Jason R. Coco and William D. Mills are seeking that five-year board term.

In the Cape Henlopen School District, two candidates are seeking each of the three terms that expire June 30. Incumbent and current board president Alison J. Myers and Calvin D. Jackson II fare vying for a Member-at-Large seat; incumbent Andrew W. Lewis and Janet E. Maull-Martin are candidates in Area C; and William W. Collick and Charles A. Mowll are seeking another Member-at-Large seat.

No election is needed in the Woodbridge and Laurel districts. Incumbent Steve C. McCarron is unchallenged in Woodbridge as is Laurel school board incumbent Brad C. Lee.

 

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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