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Despite new machines, voters see delays at polls
November 09,2005
Kaitlin Bell
The Monitor

EDINBURG ? Hidalgo County citizens cast their votes on new electronic machines Tuesday with one minor glitch: Machines outfitted for disabled voters were down for the duration of the day, causing some frustration and occasional delays.

The machines, which are portable and outfitted with special audio features but can also be used by non-disabled voters, suffered from an unidentified software problem that put them out of commission, said Hidalgo County Elections Coordinator Angie Garcia.

Election Systems & Software, the company that manufactures the machines, spent the day at the Hidalgo County Elections Building trying to fix the software problem, Garcia said, but had not managed to get the machines up and running by the time polls closed. Overall, though, Garcia said she thought the machines functioned smoothly.

"I think the new system is wonderful. It?s just a matter of having the people get used to it," she said.

Still, at least a few polling stations said having one nonfunctioning machine made it difficult for voters to cast their ballots.

At a polling place on East 12th Street in Mission, Election Judge Clark Spikes was circulating a single paper ballot among voters waiting in line so they could familiarize themselves with the amendments and mull their choices before taking their turn at the station?s only functioning machine. He didn?t have any sample ballots, he said ? only certified paper ones of which he had to keep careful track, lest they disappear.

Spikes said a larger-than-expected turnout made it especially inconvenient to have just one functioning machine and that he intends to submit a request for more machines during next year?s election.

Regardless, both voters and election judges said once people got a chance to try out the machines, they found them easy to use.

"People hear it?s electronic voting and they say, ?oh I can?t do that,?" said Patricia Navarro, an election judge at the voting station at the Slim Olivarez Community Center on Mayberry Avenue in Mission. "But a lot of people don?t know how easy it really it is."

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