Voting snags are resolved quickly, Iowans report
Des Moines Register By JENNIFER JACOBS November 8, 2006
In Butler County, machines erroneously tell some voters that they made mistakes. Counting is delayed in Pottawattamie County.
While malfunctioning voting machines have bedeviled some states, the glitches reported in Iowa on Election Day were scattered and minor, election officials said.
There were no reports that a problem caused a person's vote to not be counted, said Charles Krogmeier, deputy secretary of state.
The biggest challenge, election officials said, was dealing with the influx of voters when turnout proved larger than expected.
"It's been unbelievable for a nonpresidential year," said Gene Krumm, auditor in Dallas County, where some voters reported wait times of an hour and a half at the Waukee Christian Church.
Although the statewide turnout was still being crunched at press time, election officials predicted that 52 percent to 55 percent of the state's 2 million registered voters trekked to the polls.
"The phone's been ringing off the wall all day with people wanting to know where they're registered," said Wapello County Auditor Phyllis Dean.
Spot checks showed polling places in the Waukee, Davenport, Waterloo, Iowa City and Council Bluffs areas were hopping, too. Johnson County expected to surpass its record for turnout in a midterm election.
Voters' mistrust in electronic machines surfaced sporadically throughout the 77 counties that offer touch-screen machines, which watchdog groups criticize for not having a voter-verified paper trail.
Several voters asked for paper ballots in Jackson County, one of 19 Iowa counties that use touch-screen machines exclusively and don't offer paper ballots at all.
Those voters were given provisional ballots, which will be considered by a special board later this week, Jackson County Auditor Joell Deppe said.
The most serious voting-machine problems were in Butler County, where all the ballot-reading machines were notifying voters who marked a straight-party ticket that they were missing votes for all the races.
"The voter then is thinking, 'Oh my God, it didn't vote for the people I wanted to vote for,' " county Auditor Holly Fokkena said. However, all the ballots were being tabulated correctly, she added.
The problem was due to an in-house programming error on the optical-scan machines, said Casey Sinnwell, a spokesman for the state secretary of state's office.
Elsewhere across the state, there were random glitches. Here are examples:
- Pottawattamie County, plagued with serious voting machine troubles during the June primary, experienced a delay of several hours in its vote count Tuesday because of a software-programming error. "The ballots are fine, the machines are fine, it's the program for the counting equipment," county Auditor Marilyn Jo Drake said. "That's nothing my office can check."
- The paper-ballot-reading machines locked up a handful of times in precincts in Rockwell City and Sherman and wouldn't work until election officials used a key to get the machines working again, said Calhoun County Auditor Judy Howrey.
- In Fayette County, precinct workers encountered a minor problem that has popped up regularly since the county began using its electronic ES&S iVotronic machines in 1996, said county Auditor Larry Popenhagen. Precinct workers have to a cartridge that brings up a ballot for each voter, but if they it too quickly, the screen will freeze, Popenhagen said.
"That's just a common problem," he said.
- In Pocahontas County, printer problems forced workers to shut down four Diebold touch-screen voting machines for the morning, but voting there never ceased because each precinct in that county also has paper ballots counted by a separate ballot-reading machine, said Margene Bunda, the county auditor.
- In Johnson County, absentee ballot results were delayed about four hours - all 14,000 ballots needed to be rescanned because of a procedural problem with the tabulating equipment.
Meanwhile, in Polk County, where paper ballots are the only option, voters grumbled about the ballpoint pens available at polling places, saying that filling in ovals goes faster with a felt-tip.
Register staff writers Meghan V. Malloy, Melissa Walker and Lee Rood contributed to this article.