Casting a ballot may take a bit longer for some voters in Ohio and Hancock counties on Nov. 4 - but that's all right. In exchange, they will have the reassurance that the voting machines they are using are tested and secure.
Both counties had ordered additional voting machines from the supplier, Election Systems and Software Inc., in anticipation of heavy turnout on Nov. 4. Ohio County had ordered 10 new machines and Hancock had requested seven. Another county, Summers, had ordered four machines.
But on Monday, the state Elections Commission refused to certify the machines for use in the Nov. 4 election. That came on the recommendation of Secretary of State Betty Ireland.
Ireland explained that the machines are slightly different than those ordered by many counties in advance of the 2006 elections. New ES&S machines have a few new parts - and have not yet been tested or certified by the federal Election Assistance Commission.
Ireland told Elections Commission members that her recommendation was made out of an "abundance of caution."
We suspect that voters in quite a few other states wish their election officials had displayed a similar "abundance of caution" in years past, when serious questions about voting irregularities were raised. Ireland's attitude is one important reason why West Virginia has been spared such agony during her tenure.
State Election Commission members were right to take Ireland's advice and reject use of the new machines on Nov. 4.
We doubt that the new machines' absence will create problems in our area. Ohio County already has 163 voting machines. Hancock County has 86. That probably will be enough to meet demand - and Ireland's office has noted that, if a county is in serious need of additional machines, her office has a stock of 25 that it may be able to utilize.
Elections are controversial enough without questions about the reliability of voting machines. This is a situation in which we think voters will applaud exercise of an "abundance of caution."