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11/4/2008
05:21 PM
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Electronic Voting Machines Tested By Record Turnout

Many precincts relied on new, or relatively new electronic voting machines to handle the influx and tally the results.

Scattered reports of voting machine problems surfaced in several battleground states during the 2008 Presidential Election as poll workers tried to deal with a record turnout of voters.

Experts predicted over 130 million voters, which would be the highest percentage of U.S. voter participation ever. The record before Tuesday was 123.5 million votes cast in 2004. Many precincts relied on new, or relatively new electronic voting machines to handle the influx and tally the results.

Toward the end of the day, election watch group Election Protection reported 50,000 calls from voters reporting problems and seeking assistance.

The group reported that voters in Ohio whose names appeared on the state's voter registration database and who received notices telling confirming their registration and polling place learned that their names were not on lists kept by poll workers. Election Protection said the same issue surfaced in 2004 and 2006 and has not been corrected.

"Cuyahoga County was the scene of various problems with the voter-registration database in recent elections," the group reported on its Web site. "Experts say these kinds of problems can stem from mischief, programming errors, database corruption or rogue code. Whatever the cause, they disenfranchise legitimate voters and interfere with an efficient, fair and accurate election process."

Florida voters in several of the state's southern precincts reported problems with optical scanners for paper ballots and malfunctioning electronic voting machines. Voters in Colorado also reported long lines because of problems with voting machines there.

In Michigan county clerks reported problems with electronic voting machines counting votes incorrectly. They revealed the problem before Election Day and attempted to correct it in time, but voter complaints from nearly 20 Michigan cities Tuesday indicated that the problem hadn't been solved. Election Protection reported that the root cause of the problem was poll workers' inability to operate the machines.

The Voting Rights Project for the Lawyers' Committee, another watch group, reported statewide problems in Virginia and Pennsylvania due to problems with electronic voting machines. Those problems could have stemmed from equipment failure or human error. In Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, touch-screens malfunctioned and optical scanners that record paper ballots jammed, according to the group. Voters who have been unable to vote on electronic machines because of equipment failure or human error are allowed to cast their vote on provisional ballots.

Election Protection said it's an inadequate substitute for voting by regular ballot.

"We must reform our voter-registration system to prevent, or at least greatly reduce, such problems from cropping up election after election," the group explained.

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