As the Democracy Baby is Thrown Out With the Paper Ballot Bathwater...
By John Gideon on 11/16/2005, 11:49am PT  

Guest Blogged by John Gideon of

"We fondly remember Mayberry; but it was a fictional town. We have to move on."

So said Catherine Carpenter, the Administrative Assistant and self-described "Queen of Town Hall" and "Jill of All Trades" in the once sleepy little southern town of Bluffton, South Carolina.

Last night was the last time that the citizens of Bluffton would vote using paper ballots after going to the only polling place they ever needed: Town Hall. It has been a long-standing tradition that at the end of the day, when the polls closed, the citizens of the town would gather in the hall and watch as the votes are counted.

Each vote is marked with a slash mark on a chalk board and audience members call out "tally " each time a group of five votes is recorded.

But now, according to Carpenter, the town has grown too large to do that anymore. Since 2000 this once little town has grown from 1278 citizens to over 4800. They are very quickly being swallowed up into the retirement community craze that has swept north from Florida. And that means Tuesday's gathering of citizens to watch the tally of the votes and to call out "tally" will move on too...

In his article, "Paper voting to end?", Island Packet reporter Justin Paprocki writes:

"The paper balloting and counting have been kept for tradition's sake, but as the population increases, electronic voting will be the most efficient practice, [Mayor Hank] Johnston said.

"We'll do it one last time," Johnston said, "to show the candidates and to show the public the old way of doing things."

Town Council will officially decide when to make the switch.

Beaufort County elections director Agnes Garvin said paper balloting is rare in counties the size of Beaufort. Bluffton is the only municipality in the county that sticks to the old-fashioned way.

"It's rather unusual," she said.

So, last night was the end of a tradition and it is sad to see its demise, especially when their future is electronic voting machines and all of the baggage that goes with them.