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NEW: Voting problems minor, but frustrating

Web Posted: 11/02/2004 02:47 PM CST

Tracy Idell Hamilton
San Antonio Express-News Staff Writer

Uncharged batteries in several touch-screen voting machines hampered early morning voting at a southeast Bexar County precinct for about two hours today, officials said.

Poll workers at Sinclair Elementary School realized just before 7 a.m. that the voting machines were dead, angering a long line of eager voters.

By 9 a.m., county technicians had powered up the machines, but not before dozens of people had left, either in frustration or because they were late for work.

The situation was the first of several obstacles voters encountered around the county as voting in the hotly contested presidential election got under way. Most were minor issues cleared up through the persistence of voters.

Local voting continues through 7 p.m. today.

Richard Mena, who got to Sinclair at 6:45 a.m., said people started growing testy by 7:30 a.m., when the line hadn?t moved at all. Word filtered back that the machines were dead, but poll workers were trying to get through to a technician.

?My wife finally had to go to work,? Mena said. ?They didn?t offer us alternative ballots, they just told us to wait.?

Laura MacRae was one of about 8 people allowed to sign in, and watched a poll worker stamp the word ?VOTED? by her name.

Then when the machines didn?t work, MacRae was told that she had to wait because she had already signed in.

Telling a poll worker she had to go to work, she was first told that if she did, she?d have to sign a waiver that she?d given up the right to vote.

?They finally conceded,? MacRae said. A poll worker wrote a note by her name to allow her to vote later.

MacRae said she her employer was allowing her to leave work early to make a second return and vote.

Martina Miller, the precinct judge, said voting was going smoothly after technicians got the machines up and running.

When Julie Moore went to vote at the Gonzalez Achievement Center in Monte Vista, she was told she must show identification to vote, even though she had her voter registration card.

?Someone told a poll worker that was illegal, but they still had to show I.D.,? she said. ?Someone got on a cell phone right behind me to report it.?

Three hours later, Moore?s sister, Sherilyn Strickland, went to the same precinct, and was not asked for any additional identification.

?I guess they got it straightened out,? she said.

Audra McFarland had a more difficult time. It took her three trips and several phone calls before she cleared up a voter registration issue.

McFarland said she was initially told that she was no longer eligible to vote because she hadn?t voted in the last two years and had not renewed her registration.

Several phone calls later, she was allowed to vote by signing a statement of residency form. ?I saw one man leave,? she said. ?I?m glad I was persistent.?

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