ID rules, machines early voting problems

Discussion in 'Wall St. News' started by S2007S, Nov 7, 2006.

  1. S2007S


    ITs 2006 and they still cant get it right!!!

    Electronic voting machine problems frazzled voters and election workers in dozens of precincts as the polls opened Tuesday, delaying voters in Indiana and Ohio and leaving some in Florida with little choice but turn to paper ballots instead.

    In Cleveland, voters rolled their eyes as poll workers fumbled with new voting machines that they couldn't get to start properly.

    "We got five machines — one of them's got to work," said Willette Scullank, a trouble shooter from the Cuyahoga County, Ohio, elections board.

    Election officials in Delaware County, Ind., planned to seek a court order to extend voting after an apparent computer error prevented voters from casting ballots in 75 precincts. Delaware County Clerk Karen Wenger said the cards that activate the machines were programmed incorrectly.

    "We are working with precincts one-by-one over the telephone to get the problem fixed," Wenger said.

    With a third of Americans voting on new equipment and voters navigating new registration databases and changing ID rules, election watchdogs worried about polling problems even before the voting began Tuesday.

    Although turnout generally is lower in midterm elections, this year was the deadline for many of the election changes enacted in the wake of the Florida balloting chaos of 2000.

    The 2002 Help America Vote Act required or helped states to replace outdated voting equipment, establish statewide voter registration databases, require better voter identification and provide provisional ballots so qualified voters can have a say if something goes wrong.

    "There has not been an election in decades that has had this much change," said Wendy Weiser, an attorney with the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University's law school.

    Control of Congress is also at stake this year, with all 435 House seat and 33 of 100 Senate seats are up for grabs, along with 36 governors' offices. Because individual congressional races are generally decided by fewer votes than presidential contests, any problems at the polls are more likely to affect the outcome.

    According to Election Data Services, a Washington, D.C., consulting firm, 32 percent of registered voters were using equipment added since the 2004 elections.

    Nearly half of all voters were using optical-scan systems that ask them to fill in blanks, with ballots then fed into a computer. Thirty-eight percent were casting votes on touchscreen machines that have been criticized as susceptible to hackers.

    Election experts say both types of voting machines are bound to cause trouble.

    Touchscreens may display incorrect ballots or fail to boot properly. Voters using optical-scan equipment might circle a name instead of filling in a box.

    Poll workers also might not be adequately trained to handle the unexpected, which can cause delays as voters were already discovering Tuesday.

    Voting-machine vendors said they had thousands of workers on the ground and special command centers to handle any problems.

    "Elections have hundreds and hundreds of moving parts, and most of those parts have to do with humans," said Michelle Shafer, spokeswoman for Sequoia Voting Systems Inc. "There will be isolated issues throughout the nation I'm sure. That's just the normal part of elections. Overall we feel confident things will go pretty well."

    Just getting to the right polling place with all the right identification posed a challenge for some voters.

    Many states established voter registration databases for the first time, and many found problems as they tried to match drivers' license and
    Social Security data with the voter rolls.

    Someone may have a middle initial or use "Jr." on one list but not the other, or "Doug" and "Douglas" may be interchanged in records. Data entry errors also occur.

    Although not required by federal law, some states also passed new voter identification requirements, in many cases calling for a government-issued photo ID, rather than just a utility bill.

    Courts have struck down specific ID requirements in several states, but election watchdogs warned that poll workers might still mistakenly turn voters away. Missouri's chief elections official, Robin Carnahan, said she was asked three times to show a photo ID, despite a court ruling striking the requirement down there.

    In one of the worst fiascoes, Maryland election officials forgot to send the cards primary voters needed to activate electronic machines at their polling places, and some voters had to cast provisional ballots on scraps of paper.

    In New Mexico, some voters complained they had received phone calls giving them incorrect information about where in vote.

    Several Florida counties stocked up ahead of the election with extra voting machines, paper ballots and poll workers on standby. Apart from the state's infamous chads in 2000, Florida voters have struggled with poorly trained poll workers, trouble tallying electronic votes and precincts opening late or closing early.

    Secretary of State Sue Cobb said she didn't expect serious problems with the touch-screen voting machines this time.

    "History has shown that the machines are far more accurate than paper so we're quite confident in it," Cobb said. "There is absolutely no reason to believe that there will be any security issues, any hacking going on."

    A coalition that includes the NAACP planned to send nonpartisan poll monitors to some Florida counties. The Justice Department also was deploying polling watchers at potential trouble spots nationwide.