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Palm Beach County records 32,000 early votes for Tuesday's election
By Luis F. Perez, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Posted November 2 2006

With four days of early voting left to go, and nearly 32,000 ballots cast, a handful of voters have complained they have had the wrong ballots show up on their touch screen. Or worse, their votes appear to go to the wrong candidates.

One set of complaints prompted U.S. Rep. Clay Shaw, who is in a fierce battle for his congressional seat with state Sen. Ron Klein, to call for the closing of a Palm Beach Gardens polling site.

But Palm Beach County Elections Supervisor Arthur Anderson said Wednesday of the people who voted through Oct. 31, there have been "virtually no" complaints. Except, that is, for the issue brought to his attention Tuesday by Shaw, a Republican.

In a county where memories are still fresh of the 2000 presidential election debacle, local officials tend to be sensitive to any voter grievance. And voters can be leery of any mishaps at the polls. Still, Anderson and county political party officials said they're confident and well prepared for Election Day.

Barry Stier of suburban Boca Raton doesn't share that confidence. He and his wife voted Wednesday at the Southwest County Regional Library.

"When I touched the one [button] for the Democratic vote, that button disappeared and the vote went to the Republican," Stier said.

The same thing happened when his wife voted, said Stier, who once worked for a computer manufacturer. He blamed the problem on an off-kilter touch-screen machine and followed steps experts recommend: Stier complained to poll workers, party officials and Anderson's office.

Stier said he's confident his vote was counted properly, but worries about others who are less computer-savvy.

Anderson said he wasn't aware of Stier's complaint.

"These machines are still relatively new," said Larry Norden, a lawyer at the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law. "It's not surprising there are still some problems when people vote on them."

Norden, who worked on Anderson's technology advisory committee and led a recent study on voting technology, said Stier took the proper steps. The problem he described is often a "calibration" issue, Norden said.

Sid Dinerstein, chairman of the Palm Beach County Republican Party, said he knew about Shaw's complaint where two voters tried to cast ballots for the incumbent but showed Klein's name. It sounded like an isolated case, he said. However, he has heard from other voters who had similar problems. But none seemed to be major issues.

"I'm pretty confident everybody is watching, everybody is paying attention and everybody is hypersensitive," Dinerstein said.

Wahid Mahmood, chairman of the Palm Beach County Democratic Party, agreed with his counterpart. He said Anderson assured party officials at a Wednesday meeting that everything is going smoothly.

"We're only going to get voters' confidence by doing the right things," Mahmood said.

Anderson said there has never been and never will be a perfect election.

"When you're dealing with technology and when you're dealing with humans, there's always some way that you can have malfunctions," he said.


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