Some early W.Va. voters angry over switched votes
Paul J. Nyden Saturday Gazette-Mail 18 October 2008
At least three early voters in Jackson County had a hard time voting for candidates they want to win.
Virginia Matheney and Calvin Thomas said touch-screen machines in the county clerk's office in Ripley kept switching their votes from Democratic to Republican candidates.
"When I touched the screen for Barack Obama, the check mark moved from his box to the box indicating a vote for John McCain," said Matheney, who lives in Kenna.
When she reported the problem, she said, the poll worker in charge "responded that everything was all right. It was just that the screen was sensitive and I was touching the screen too hard. She instructed me to use only my fingernail."
Even after she began using her fingernail, Matheney said, the problem persisted.
When she tried to vote for candidates running for two open seats on the Supreme Court, the electronic machine canceled her second vote twice.
On her third try, Matheney managed to cast votes for both Menis Ketchum and Margaret Workman, Democratic candidates for the two open seats.
Calvin Thomas, 81, who retired from Kaiser Aluminum in Ravenswood in 1983 and now lives in Ripley, experienced the same problem.
"When I pushed Obama, it jumped to McCain. When I went down to governor's office and punched [Gov. Joe] Manchin, it went to the other dude. When I went to Karen Facemyer [the incumbent Republican state senator], I pushed the Democrat, but it jumped again.
"The rest of them were OK, but the machine sent my votes for those top three offices from the Democrat to the Republican," Thomas said.
"When I hollered about that, the girl who worked there said, 'Push it again.' I pushed Obama again and it stayed there. Then, the machine did the same thing for other candidates.
"Why didn't she [the polling clerk] tell me before I even used the machine that might happen? And how many people, especially my age, didn't notice that?
"Jackson County is a Republican county. I am a registered Republican, but I have been voting Democrat since the 1990s."
Thomas, who brought his daughter with him to the polls, said she had the same problem.
"After I finished, my daughter voted. When she pushed Obama, it went to McCain. It happened to her the same way it happened to me. If the poll worker knew that, why didn't she tell me before I even pushed the button?"
Deputy Secretary of State Sarah Bailey said, "When we received a call about this, we immediately called the county and told them to recalibrate the machines to make sure the finger-touch [area] lines up with the ballot.
"Sometimes machines can become miscalibrated when they are moved from storage facilities to early voting areas," Bailey said Friday. "We get a couple of calls about this each election year."
Most voting machines in most counties do work properly, Bailey added.
Jackson County Clerk Jeff Waybright said, "After we got a call from the Secretary of State's Office, we recalibrated the machine. We had already voted over 400 people with no problems."
Voting problems occur when voters touch the screen, Waybright said, but do not put their fingers inside boxes for their candidates.
Waybright blamed the problem on voters.
"People make mistakes more than the machines," he said, "but I went in yesterday and recalibrated the machines. We are doing everything we can not to disenfranchise anybody."
Matheney remains concerned.
"Leaving the polling place," she said, "I wondered how many voters might not have noticed that their vote was switched on the machine."