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Problems on first day of early voting in Shelby County

WREG-TV Memphis   19 October 2006 

Go figure.  Two different women early vote on the same day.  Neither of them lives in Germantown, yet both get a chance to vote in the Germantown municipal elections.  In a system that, according to election officials lives and dies based on the honesty of the voter, both women were honest in their own way: One simply ignored the ballot while the other let poll workers know about the problem.  And that's when her trouble began.

Shirley Neely was voting at the Greater Middle Baptist Church.  She's voted early several times before so she's comfortable using the Diebold Election system which has been used for early voting for several years.  She reached the last computer page of her ballot and says, "It had down there Germantown Mayor and two places for Alderman.  So I looked around to ask somebody, you know, what's going on.  I don't live in Germantown."

As Neely found a poll worker, she says her computer screen went blank, began a countdown, and then a message flashed.  "It said, your vote has been canceled.  Please see a poll worker."

Neely finds a poll worker, who tells her, no...she's already voted.  "I said, No I didn't sir.  The worker said, if your card came out of the machine, then you voted.  I said, but the machine said my vote was canceled, and then it released my card."

Neely says there's a button on the Diebold Voting system that says cast ballot.  She's seen it dozens of times before.  "I never pushed that button," she says.  "Never."

Still poll workers said she had already voted.  "One man came up and said he just spoke with the elections commission downtown, and I have already voted.  I said, that's not possible.  So finally they gave me a paper ballot," she said.  A paper ballot is a provisional ballot that is counted only if there is a problem.

Meanwhile, back at the Greater Middle Baptist Church, Lamika Cole had just voted.  When asked if she saw some Germantown races on her ballot, she said, "They did show up right at the beginning of it.  I didn't ask any questions.  I just voted.  I did what I had to do.  I did not vote in any of the Germantown races, because I don't live in Germantown."

We were unable to reach any elections commission officials,but these problems come at a tough time for the group.  A long court case was wrapped up just several days ago when several unsuccessful candidates in Shelby County races claimed the results of their races were wrong due to mistakes and computer problems.

Lamika Cole is familiar with those issues, and as far as her having trust that her vote counted she said "You just kind of have to pray about it, and do what you have to do."

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