Machine problems, ballot probe mar voting in Indiana counties
The News Sentinel CLIFF BRUNT, Associated Press 08 November 2006
Problems with electronic voting overshadowed concerns over Indiana's new voter ID law in its first general election test.
Neither, however, turned into the disastrous Election Day some critics had predicted.
"It has not been a perfect election, but I believe it has been a fair election that will produce accurate results," Secretary of State Todd Rokita said Tuesday.
Democrats who have challenged the voter ID law in court argued it would deter participation by certain groups, including the poor and elderly, but few problems were reported.
Instead, many of the election problems stemmed from new voting machines Indiana counties were required to use under the Help America Vote Act, which was passed after the 2000 presidential race.
In Monroe County, however, state police, election officials and the FBI looked into allegations that a Democratic volunteer was found with unprocessed absentee ballots in her possession after the county began tallying absentee votes.
The county is the largest in the 9th Congressional District, where Democrat Baron Hill regained the seat he lost to Rep. Mike Sodrel in 2004.
Both campaigns expressed concern that improper activity had occurred.
"It would be really unfortunate that anybody from any party would expose themselves to possible violations of the law to win elections. That's not how you conduct an election," Sodrel said, hours before conceding defeat in the hotly contested race.
About 20 ballots were in question, Jack Schmit, a Republican member of the county election board, told The Herald-Times of Bloomington.
County Clerk Jim Fielder told The Associated Press late Tuesday that the incident had been blown out of proportion. He said election officials had not discovered any irregularities in the precincts that they had counted.
In Delaware County, blue start cards that activate the push-button machines were programmed incorrectly in 75 Delaware County precincts by MicroVote General Corp., the company that installed software in 47 Indiana counties, County Clerk Karen Wenger said.
The problems were fixed by late morning, but a court order extended voting to 8:40 p.m. local time.
In northern Indiana's LaPorte County, two polling places stayed open late because of difficulties getting machines to operate properly.
In Marion County, Indiana's largest, electronic optical-scan machines that read paper ballots did not work correctly for early voting in more than 100 precincts. Some workers had trouble connecting optical-scan machines to new touch-screen models, which handicapped voters use, said Marion County Clerk Doris Anne Sadler.
Despite the glitches, officials were pleased with the turnout, which Rokita had predicted would exceed the 38 percent in the 2002 midterm election.
Officials in northern Indiana's St. Joseph County said more than 8,500 people cast absentee ballots, nearly a 55 percent increase over 2002, county officials said.
"Everyone is saddened by what they've seen over the past few years in regards to this country," said Democrat Joe Donnelly, who unseated Rep. Chris Chocola. "Everyone loves this country so much they are flocking to the polls to vote for change and for a new direction."
Associated Press writers Ryan Lenz in Evansville, Rick Callahan in Jeffersonville and Tom Coyne in South Bend contributed to this report.