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Computer Crash

Anna Marie Hartman. WMC-TV Memphis. 20 October 2004 

When early voting ends October 28th election commission officials will know how many people voted, but they won't know how they voted. It's a process that leaves some voters wondering if they're ballot is in good hands until November 2nd.

With eight days left to vote early, lines spilled out of the Agri-Center precinct Tuesday. Voter Hank Vallin said, "This morning, I came in about 10 after 10, the line was double, so I turned around and went home." This has been the busiest of the 19 early voting sites in Shelby County.

Voter Curtis Null said, "From the time we got in line until we walked out the door it took about an hour and 10 minutes." Progress slowed to a crawl Tuesday when computers at the precinct crashed around lunchtime.

Voter Adrianne Purselley said, "When we drove up, a gentleman told us that the computers were down and we were looking at other places around Memphis that we might be able to go and vote."

It's a glitch that leaves some voters wondering if any ballots are lost during a computer shutdown. But that's impossible, according to election commission officials, who say early votes are cast on computers that function independently. After your ballot is cast, the information is stored on a memory card that's locked in a vault until election day.

"Poll workers use PCs to communicate with the downtown election commission database to verify and input voter registration information. If those crash it would have no effect on these computerized voting machines or the votes already stored inside." The only thing the ballot box is plugged into is an electrical outlet for power. And officials say your power at the poll is never compromised. Election commission officials say a computer shutdown would never keep people from voting. Just slow it down considerably.

24-thousand Shelby County voters have been to the polls so far this year, a much-better turnout than in 2000. Election officials say as many as 320-thousand Shelby County voters are expected to cast their ballots by November 2nd. That's more than half of those who are registered.

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