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Voting machines to get fix after audit trail prints right vote for the wrong district

BY TRISH HOLLENBECK Northwest Arkansas Times

Posted on Thursday, October 26, 2006

Washington County voting machines are slated to be reconfigured today after a candidate for state representative for the 92 nd district cast his vote on Wednesday and ran into an electronic voting snag. The paper trail “ receipt” from his vote said Republican candidate Cephus Richard III was in the wrong district.

“ ES & S (Election Systems & Software Inc. ) is re-burning all of our media, the apparatus that pulls off ballots on our touch screens, so that the touch screen audit trails will reflect the correct representative districts for the District 92 candidates, ” said Election Coordinator Nancy Varvil. “ This never affected the tallying of the votes. The fix just puts the correct district on the audit trail. ”

Varvil stressed that, despite the printing of the wrong district, the actual votes were recorded accurately. The touch screen did indicate the correct district, she added. The new media are expected to be working by noon today.

The glitch was discovered after Richard – who at first wanted to use a paper ballot – decided to use the electronic machine when poll workers assured him that the electronic vote results could not be tampered with on the Internet.

Everything went well, he said, until he voted for himself. He said the receipt from the machine showed that he was in District 87, not in District 92 as he should have been. He then erased his vote and voted for opponent Lindsley Smith – and got the same result on the receipt.

“ It definitely stood out to me knowing it was District 92, ” Richard said.

He then raised his concern to poll workers, and Varvil was called to the Washington County Clerk’s Office. She explained that the names of the candidates, not the titles of races, are tallied, Richard said. She said she would check with ES & S in Omaha, Neb., about the error on the paper trail. Richard, who was reluctant to use the electronic voting machine anyway, said he asked to cancel his electronic vote and use a paper ballot, which was allowed.

Varvil then showed him how the counting is performed to try to alleviate his concerns.

Richard says he feels confident that voters will look at names and not numbers of districts when voting, and that votes are given to candidates, not district numbers. Besides that, he said, the correct district number was displayed on the electronic voting machine screen.

Even though he feels confident, he said, he still decided to go with the paper ballot for his vote.

When contacted later Wednesday, Varvil said she did not know why the voting machine printed the wrong district number on the audit tape.

“ It had to be in the programming in there somewhere, ” she said, adding that all of the votes for Richard will go to his name.

Varvil says she hopes the incorrect number on the voting receipt does not discourage voters from using the voting machine.

“ The machine is going to report their vote accurately, ” she said, adding that she has received no other complaints.

While he said he learned to go with his “ gut instinct” of using the paper ballot, Richard said he would not have learned about the problem had he not used the machine, and he was able to notify election officials of the problem.

Hours for early voting are 8 to 6 p. m. Monday through Friday and 10 a. m. to 4 p. m. Saturday, and people may early vote through the Monday before the election, when hours will be 8 a. m. to 5 p. m.

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