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The Power of the Public Test

The Power of the Public Test

(C. Proxmire, Ferndale 115 News, July 31, 2012)

Carl Weiler wore his Superman shirt on July 26 when he and Jim Whipple came to City Hall to witness the obligatory public test of election equipment.  The test takes place in the weeks before every election so the public can see that the equipment works.  It gives them a chance to see the safeguards that are in place to prevent problems, such as a malfunction or tampering, before election day.

Weiler and Whipple are typically the only members of the public that attend.  “Somebody’s got to watch them,” Weiler said of his super-citizen role.  One website Weiler follows is, which encourages people to do their part in the political process.  He Said that “while Ferndale does a great job there are cases where there are miscounts or allegations of tampering, and the best way we can keep them honest is to come to these tests, let them know we’re watching.”

Ferndale City Clerk Cherilynn Tallman agrees with the importance of the public test, and wishes more people would take part.  “We’re going to all this work and when people don’t come out it’s discouraging,” Tallman said.

“It’s distressing when people don’t vote,” she added.

In Ferndale there are approximately 14,000 registered voters in a town of 20,000 residents.  The city recently changed its precinct size from 9 to 7, meaning more voter per poll location, but fewer machines and people needed to run a smooth election.  For a detailed article on the re-designed precincts go to

With fewer polling locations there will be more workers on hand in the busy spots to help make sure the lines move faster.  “We’ll have a couple handling paperwork and trying to utilize everyone in multiple capacities,” Tallman said.modern tax

She also explained that with the new precincts it gives Ferndale the chance to look at the accuracy of the rolls.  “We mailed everyone out a new voter registration card.  When cards get returned we can look and see why, and if someone isn’t coming in to vote and they’re not at that address, after a certain length of time we can remove their name,” Tallman said.  “It helps us be more accurate.”

The Public Test went smoothly.  The way it works is that clerks make several sample ballots with the results charted out on paper.  The ballots are fed through a machine and the totals are printed out, and then matched up with those on the paper.  If the numbers are off, it signals a problem.

All materials are kept in containers with a tamper-proof seal, and the entire room is also kept locked.

There are vote tabulators for every precinct, plus a machine that assists people with disabilities so that they are enabled to vote in privacy.  “We had a blind woman use the machine and vote without assistance for the first time last year,” Talman said.  “That’s the kind of thing that makes all this work worthwhile.”

For an in-depth look at election equipment and voting concerns, read this 2010 story called “Behind the Ballot –”

For the official City of Ferndale Election Overview Information, including sample ballots for the Aug. 7 primary election, go to

For candidate profiles and other voter information, check out our Voter Information Page at

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