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Technical problems thwart some S.C. voters

Associated Press  02 November 2004

COLUMBIA, S.C. - Cloudy skies across South Carolina and rain in the Upstate did not thwart voters early Tuesday as long lines formed at precincts statewide, but a smattering of problems with new electronic voting machines caused frustration and delays.

Voters at two of 137 precincts in Greenville County had to use paper ballots after a problem setting up touch-screen machines, state Election Commission officials said.

About 65 voters at a precinct in Mauldin voted using paper ballots while technicians from Electronic Systems & Software repaired the iVotronic machines, officials said. The machines were running properly by about 8:30 a.m. - 90 minutes after polls opened, said poll worker Rebecca Wood.

Wood said some voters left in frustration. "Some people had to leave, but the attitudes were wonderful," she said. "I know they were frustrated."

Poll workers marked the paper ballots with the word "emergency" to create a paper trail, Wood said.

Wood said the glitch may have caused longer lines but also added that turnout was "much heavier" than four years ago. "I don't know how much effect that glitch had on it," Wood said.

Greenville County is one of 15 in South Carolina using electronic voting machines.

Along the coast, Georgetown County also experienced some glitches with electronic voting machines.

Voters in four precincts had to switch to paper ballots during the first hour while officials sorted out problems with the machines. Herb Bailey, chairman of the county commission, said poll managers had failed to hit a master button to operate the machines.

The machines were up and running about 90 minutes later, Bailey said.

Long lines had formed at many precincts across the state as polls opened at 7 a.m., with poll workers at one Columbia precinct reporting double the amount of people in line compared with four years ago.

The parking lot at Dent Middle School was crowded and some 200 people were waiting in line when the polls opened at 7 a.m.

"It's not normal," said 75-year-old Timothy Evans Sr., a longtime poll worker. "Four years ago we had a little over 100 voters. It's really almost double that amount."

Hundreds of people waited in lines to vote in Simpsonville shortly after the polls opened.

The same was true in the Lowcountry. About 110 people were lined up to vote at Moultrie Middle School in Mount Pleasant. People waited about 30 minutes to make their way through the line early Tuesday morning.

At North Trenholm Baptist Church in Columbia, 61-year-old Daniel Hill said it took him almost an hour to vote. He said he made his decision four years ago. Hill said he was supporting Bush because "we're doing what we have to do in Iraq."

The precinct's poll manager Wanda Taylor said "this is far above average. It's a constant flow and everything is operating well."


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