AR - Voting machines err, misread Snyder votes : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread


Complaints about glitches in Pulaski County's new computerized voting system rolled in Thursday as early voters reported trouble getting their X's into the right boxes. More than two dozen people called U.S. Rep. Vic Snyder's office Thursday with stories of uncooperative voting machines that kept marking the wrong candidates. Poll workers are standing by to help voters complete their ballots correctly, but officials for Snyder's campaign fear voters might accidentally be choosing the wrong candidates. "I'm worried about the possibly hundreds of people who may not have realized they didn't cast the vote that they wanted to," Snyder campaign manager Steve Harrelson said. Snyder, a Democrat seeking a third term, faces Republican Bob Thomas of Little Rock. Katibell Perdue was among the 28 people who called Harrelson on Thursday to report trouble at the polls. Perdue uses a computer every day, so she said she wasn't intimidated when she went to cast her ballot using the new system Thursday afternoon. She changed her mind, though, after it took her five tries and the help of a poll worker to mark her ballot. "When I touched the screen to vote for Vic Snyder, it lit up the opponent's name," Perdue said. Harrelson wonders what will happen with people who don't want to spend extra time figuring the new system out. "What if someone gets frustrated and just doesn't vote? What if somebody gets intimidated and drops it and leaves?" he asked. Pulaski County Elections Coordinator Sandy Dyer doesn't think computer problems are causing people to mistakenly vote for candidates they didn't choose, but she still plans to check all machines that have prompted complaints. "We feel like we're addressing it," she said. Electronic voting came to Pulaski County for the first time this year, and 52 machines were set up for the two-week early voting period. Machines that cause problems for voters are taken off-line and fixed immediately, Dyer said. Batteries in the machines must be replaced every two days, and the machines must be calibrated every day or two, she said. Calibrating helps the computers match the spot a voter taps with the corresponding information on the touch screen. Voting machines that need to be calibrated might not register the intended vote. Virginia Buck isn't sure what went wrong with the machine she used Thursday at the Walker Tennis Center in Little Rock. She said she marked her vote for Snyder and went on to fill out the rest of her ballot. When she went back to double check her votes, she found a mark beside Thomas' name. "To me, it's horrifying to think what would have happened if I'd not taken the time to go back. I'm sure a lot of people didn't do that," she said. Dyer and the Election Commission brought in 28 more Votronics machines last week to handle a crush of early voters. The extra machines added to the original stock of 25 voting machines in hopes of trimming the lines at early voting sites. "The lines were long, and people were concerned about the length of time it was taking them to vote," Dyer said. Three of the new Votronics machines were initially set aside to be used only in demonstrations, but Dyer sent them out to polling sites soon after early voting began to help absorb the higher-than-expected turnout. The machines will only be used for early voting. More than 15,000 people have already visited early voting sites in the past two weeks, and Dyer said she expects the numbers to far exceed 1998's tally of 15,853 early voters by the time early voting ends. Voters cast the first ballots on the 25 newest machines Thursday, Oct. 26, after supplier Elections System & Software of Omaha, Neb., trucked them in. Twenty of the new machines are on loan from the supplier, Pulaski Election Commission Chairman Ron Oliver said. The other five new machines, along with the three demonstration machines, will likely stay in Pulaski County. The Election Commission plans to keep those eight machines in lieu of the two more expensive voting machines, called ADA Kiosks, that didn't work as well as they'd hoped, Oliver said. The two kiosks are designed to help disabled and blind people vote without assistance, but they didn't meet expectations during test runs and were never used in Pulaski County for this election, Oliver said. The Election Commission paid $107,375 for 25 Votronics machines and two ADA Kiosks earlier this year. If Elections System & Software accepts the proposed deal, Pulaski County will end up instead with 33 Votronics machines. Early voting continues through 3 p.m. Saturday at Walker Tennis Center, Southwest Recreation Center, Harvest Foods on Cantrell Road, Laman Library in North Little Rock, Jacksonville City Hall, Harvest Foods in Maumelle and Jack Evans Senior Citizens Center in Sherwood. Early voting will continue through Monday at the Pulaski County Courthouse. This article was published on Friday, November 3, 2000

-- Doris (, November 03, 2000

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