Wednesday, March 3, 2004

Glitches Hinder Casting of Votes

Los Angeles, Times, 03/03/04

The Los Angeles Times reports on various problems with electronic voting machines in Southern California. Here are some excerpts from the story:


In Orange County, poll workers unfamiliar with the new electronic voting system made mistakes Tuesday that allowed many people to vote in the wrong districts, potentially endangering the outcomes of several races, officials acknowledged.

Brett Rowley, a spokesman for the Orange County registrar of voters, said "many" voters called to complain that the wrong ballot popped up on their screen, but he said he did not know how many complaints the office had fielded.

"We've had quite a few phone calls [from voters] saying they received the wrong ballot," Rowley said. "It always concerns us if people feel they received the wrong ballot. Unfortunately, once you cast your ballot, it's the same as if you put your ballot in the box. We can never retrieve it.... That's the unfortunate thing."


Assemblyman Ken Maddox, a Republican candidate for state Senate in the 35th District, said he had driven to the polls at Westminster Christian Assembly after fielding calls from voters complaining that his name wasn't on their ballot.

"I went down there to find out what was going on," Maddox said. "I got there about noon. They hadn't even bothered to notify the registrar. We called the registrar and they told us the technician had gone to lunch.... You can imagine how I'm thinking. It's called, 'You don't get lunch today. Eat in your car.' "

After several phone calls to the registrar, Maddox said, precinct workers realized they had entered the wrong district into the voting machines. As a result, the 35th Senate District race did not appear on the ballot.

"This was especially disturbing to me because this is my base," Maddox said. "A large Asian district was denied the right to vote today. Vietnamese American voters were denied the right to vote for me, as well as for [Assembly candidate] Van Tran."


San Diego County's experience with its new $30-million touch-screen voting system was less than stellar.

An hour after the polls were supposed to open, the new voting machines at 10% of the county's 1,611 precincts still were not operating, according to Joe Tash, a spokesman for the county registrar-recorder's office.

Tash said poll workers saw an unfamiliar screen when the Diebold system, purchased in December, was turned on at precincts across the county. Until poll workers were given further instructions, they were unable to sign on to the system. As a result, they could not program the plastic "smart" cards that tell the touch-screen voting machines what kind of ballot a voter can cast.

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