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Opinions differ on election services

By JOHN MARTIN Evansville Courier & Press November 13, 2004

Election Systems & Software called the Nov. 2 general election in Vanderburgh County a success, despite some criticism from the public and Election Board members.

The company released a statement Friday saying that high voter turnout "presented challenges for all of us involved in the election," but that "we were able to work together to meet those challenges head-on." 

The statement said Election Day problems were addressed "quickly and effectively. Every voter had the opportunity to have his or her ballot cast and counted - and accurate results were reported to the public."

Election Systems & Software said the company's statement was jointly written by County Clerk Marsha Abell.

But during an Election Board meeting Wednesday, Abell echoed some of the criticism leveled by Election Board member Donald Vowels about the company's technical support on Election Day.

Vowels described the company's Election Day service as "rotten." Abell said during the same meeting that "the level of service was not good."

Election Board members cited the failure of equipment as votes were being counted, and Abell said she had to drive to an office supply store to buy paper when a tabulation machine's paper ran out.

The company, which manufactured Vanderburgh County's touch-screen voting equipment, said it sent 10 staff members here for Election Day. Among the company's representatives in Vanderburgh County for the election was chief financial officer Tom O'Brien.

Vanderburgh County Commissioners last week ordered an audit of the election results. They asked the county's chief information officer, Matt Arvay, to seek price quotes and report back to them at Monday's commissioners meeting.

Abell said some of the problems that arose with voting machines were caused by poll workers not attending training classes. She said about 230 of the 700 poll workers did not go to the classes.

"You can't expect the equipment to run good if you don't know how to use it," Abell said.

Indiana law states that only certain poll workers - inspectors and judges - are required to attend training.

But Abell said because of Vanderburgh County's new voting equipment, the local Election Board asked that all poll workers go to a training class.

The Election Board passed a resolution Wednesday stating that any poll workers who don't attend training for a future election will receive only half of their compensation for the work.

Long lines were reported at many polling places on Election Day, with some voters saying they had to wait more than two hours.

Election Board members attributed the long lines to heavy voter turnout and a lengthy ballot that included three proposed amendments to the Indiana Constitution. They said Vanderburgh County bought all the voting machines they could afford with the federal reimbursement funds available.

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