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Problems at the polls

Campaign 2006 | Just as election watchdogs predicted, voters are running into problems with the new electronic voting machines at polling places across the nation

Just as election watchdogs predicted, voters are running into problems with the new electronic voting machines at polling places across the nation.

Electronic optical-scan machines in Indiana's Marion County initially weren't working properly in more than 100 precincts. It was a similar story in Cleveland, where election workers had difficulty getting the voting machines to start properly. And in Pittsburgh, news stations stayed busy updating viewers on technical delays at area precincts.

One Pennsylvania resident who voted on one of the new machines discovered how sensitive they can be: "Apparently, at least on the machine I voted on, you have to touch fairly low on the line to have it register the candidate you want. If you touch the upper part of the line, it will register the candidate above. I had this happen for a choice I made, and had to go back and change it. As I was leaving the polling place, I heard the local talk radio station. Just then a caller was reporting the very same experience happening to him."

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Widespread technical problems this morning at polling places in Delaware County, Ind., resulted in a judge ordering that polls remain open until 8:40 p.m. Programming glitches in Lebanon County, Pa., have also resulted in extended poll hours. For the later county, some voters had to cast paper ballots until the problems were resolved.

In Denver, however, a judge turned down Democrats' request to keep polls open two hours longer after voting was delayed for up to three hours due to computer malfunctions and long-lines. Democrats in Tennessee were still waiting to learn whether a judge will extend polling hours in some precincts due to insufficient and malfunctioning voting machines, long lines, and other delays.

A third of all Americans were predicted to vote today on the new electronic machines. Despite the reported problems, voting equipment companies told the Associated Press they hadn't seen anything beyond the norm and blamed most of the problems on human error.

"Any time there's more exposure to equipment, there are questions about setting up the equipment and things like that," Ken Fields, a spokesman for Election Systems & Software Inc., told the Associated Press. "Overall, things are going very well."

And at polling places where machines were operating properly, many voters said they liked the new system, including a California resident who said it was, "Fast, easy, and it left a paper trail."

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