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Voting machine troubles cause long lines

Abell blames untrained poll workers for troubles

By PHILIP ELLIOTT Courier & Press November 2, 2004

Voters found backed-up lines and electronic voting machines on the fritz Tuesday at some polling locations because, the county's top elections official said, poll workers weren't following directions or simply were not trained.

County Clerk Marsha Abell blamed poll workers for causing dozens of voting machines to freeze during this, their first general election. The increased voter turnout and machines troubles prompted workers to move more quickly, thus breaking more machines.

Abell said she scheduled 18 sessions to train the almost 700 election workers, but about 100 did not attend the three-hour sessions. She scheduled another Sunday, but only 12 people came.

That leaves 88 of Tuesday's poll workers untrained on the new machines and how to help voters use them.

"That's a terrible thing," said Abell, a Republican who herself is running for a seat on the Vanderburgh County Council.

Polling locations at Dexter and Tekoppel elementary schools and the VFW Hall all had trouble early in the day. Voters stood in more than two-hour lines while technicians scurried to repair or replace the machines.

Voting at Dexter Elementary came almost to a complete standstill when three of the four machines crashed. Lines snaked throughout that gym while voters stood and sat. After the machines were repaired, another two were added to the gymnasium to get things moving again.

"It was small consolation to the people standing in the back," said Don Gibbs, an election inspector at Dexter Elementary.

At Tekoppel Elementary, two of the four machines broke and about 40 people stood in line while election inspector Mary Hukill tried to reset the machine. After 45 minutes and a visit from the elections office, the machines were back online.

Despite the delays, voters said they would stick it out and cast their ballot.

"I don't think I've ever not voted," said Steve Oliker, a voter at Dexter.

"I brought something with me to read," said Oliker, who has voted at Dexter for 40 years. "I met a lot of my neighbors. They've never had this many people here. We're used to coming in and walking right up."

Voters said they shuffled slowly through the lines because they were committed to electing - or defeating - specific candidates.

"We wouldn't miss it," said Paula Thompson, who shared her snacks with other frustrated voters.

"When we left the house, I said we'd better bring something to eat," Thompson said. At first, she grabbed a single sleeve of cinnamon graham crackers, but instead brought an entire unopened box.

As she rolled out of the polling place, she had five crackers left.

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