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Frustrated voters wait long lines due to equipment failure

Several precincts had to deal with voting machines that weren't functional for many voters.
By Mark Garay
ABC13 Eyewitness News
(11/02/04 - HOUSTON) ? E-machines were supposed to make voting go smoothly in Harris County, but it's been anything but at one polling site in southeast Houston.

 Three precincts represented by the Cullen Missionary Baptist Church were having problems with the equipment, making it a long morning for voters and election workers.

The problems have since been corrected, but not before many trying moments. At least six of E-slate voting machines weren't functioning when voters first arrived.

"And it's frustrating for the voters. They are having to stand in longer lines and having to wait longer because they can't access machines that we should have available to us," said election official Nedra Ward.

Voter registration information thought to be safe and secure was somehow lost. That forced many voters to re-register on the spot, causing the lines to grow, doubling the wait time and stretching people's patience to a very a thin margin.

"We have some people who have left and they say they are coming back," said Ward. "We are trying everything we can to keep our voters here."

Those who stayed tried to keep their cool, but they say it wasn't easy.

"Yes, there are six machines down. I got there at 8 o'clock and they have been down since," said voter Melita Warren. "The tech does not know how to fix it. She is reading the manual, so therefore I should have been at work a long time ago."

A private election watchdog group documented the problems.

"Long lines, an hour and half wait. People (were) coming in at 7:30 and not leaving until 9," said Mary Huffine.

No one knows how many voters left before casting their ballots and there is no way of knowing who will be back. But still, there are those like one woman who telephoned her boss and tried to stay positive.

"I called my job twice and hopefully I'll be on TV so they can believe me, so I don't have a problem," said voter Tracy Robins.

All 11 E-slate machines are working now, but it took three technicians to come out to the site and fix the problem. Officials told Eyewitness News it should have just taken one technician to do the repairs.

There is still no word on what exactly was wrong with the equipment. Several other precincts were having problems with the E-slate machines as well.

If you come across any problems at your precinct, you're asked to call 713-271-1905 or the Voter Hotline at 713-368-VOTE.

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