Officials find, fix glitch in NM voting machine
The Washington Times. October 7, 2008, by DEBORAH BAKER, Associated Press.
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - A glitch that would have kept votes from being counted in the presidential and other top-of-the-ticket races was discovered during a pre-election check of a voting machine in Santa Fe County, officials said.
The error was found Friday and corrected the same day, said Denise Lamb, who heads the elections bureau in the county clerk's office.
The problem in the coding of the machine's memory card would have prevented the tabulating machine from counting the votes in the presidential, U.S. Senate and 3rd District congressional races when Democrats or Republicans marked their ballots indicating they wanted to vote a straight ticket.
In New Mexico _ a state where the presidential contest between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain could be close _ voters use paper ballots that are ed into optical scanning machines for counting.
Heavily Democratic Santa Fe County was the only county in which the problem occurred, according to Automated Election Services, which prints ballots, codes memory cards and provides other election assistance to the state and counties.
"It's a standard test that every county does, just for this reason," said AES President Terry Rainey.
County officials discovered the error as they were testing a machine that will be used in the clerk's office, where as of Tuesday voters may request absentee ballots and fill them out on the spot.
Because the problem was in memory cards, all the county's tabulating machines would have been affected had it not been caught, Rainey said.
The glitch likely would have come to the attention of elections officials at some point, when it appeared that a suspiciously large number of voters hadn't cast ballots in the top races.
"One of the major benefits to the paper ballot system is that if there is, in fact, a programming issue or malfunction of computer equipment, we have the paper ballots you can go back to and re-create the election," Rainey said.
That could, however, cause a delay in getting final vote tallies in affected races.
Rainey could not provide an explanation of just how the error was made.
He said technicians were dispatched to Santa Fe once the problem was discovered and it took just a few minutes to re-burn all the memory cards for the county's machines.
Santa Fe County had more than 94,600 registered voters as of early Monday afternoon, Lamb said.
Democrat Al Gore won New Mexico in 2000 by just 366 votes. President Bush won the state in 2004 by fewer than 6,000 votes over Democrat John Kerry.