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Voting machines have technical difficulties

By Gina    Dayton Daily News November 8, 2005

Election Day got off to a rough start Tuesday in some precincts in Montgomery County, where new touch-screen voting machines are being used for the first time. The machines, which officials said are more accurate and are expected to speed up the vote-counting process, are being used in about half of Ohio?s 88 counties, including Greene and Miami.

Sporatic problems were reported throughout Montgomery County, including Miamisburg, Washington Twp. and Dayton. Mike Petkus, 47, of Dayton said that when he went to cast his ballot at Kiser Middle School in north Dayton, he had the Northridge school board candidates on his touch screen rather than the Dayton school board. As he was leaving the polling place to get to work, he said, ?another guy was raising that same red flag.? ?I think there was some very poor checking,? he said.

Montgomery County Board of Elections Director Steve Harsman acknowledged there were some expected and unexpected problems, though he was pleased overall with the way things were running. ?We had some minor issues, some expected situations this morning rolling out a new voting system of this magnitude,? he said.

His office received 30 to 40 calls from precincts reporting a ?low paper error? on some of the machines even though each contained a new roll of paper. Harsman believes the machines got jostled while moved to the polling locations, shaking a bracket and causing a sensor to go off. Voters should have been able to use other machines while roving trouble shooters remedied the problem, he said.

Harsman said there were also some scattered reports of poll workers who were not able to properly insert the memory cards into the machines.

At one Washington Twp. precinct, two of the eight voting machines were reportedly taken out of service in the morning because of snafus. In Miamisburg, a voter who went to cast his ballot at a precinct in the Miamisburg library at 7 a.m. said he wasn?t able to vote because the new machines were displaying ballots for a Warren County precinct. He said poll operators told him they had to cancel all of the ballots of people who had tried to vote there earlier because they all said the wrong ballots were displayed.

Harsman said that particular precinct is a split precinct covering two school districts, Miamisburg and Carlisle. He said a trouble shooter was sent out and reported about 9 a.m. the problem had been corrected. After hearing the voter?s concern that some ballots may have been canceled, Harsman said he was going to send another trouble shooter back out to see if that indeed happened.

If so, he said, voters should have been reissued a correct card and would have been allowed to vote.

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