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Voting machine problems checked
By Vic Kolenc / El Paso Times
Article Launched:11/04/2006 12:34:27 AM MST

El Paso County officials are investigating some reported problems with electronic voting machines during early voting.

El Paso County Attorney José Rodrí guez said 16 people complained Friday that a vote cast on their touch-screen ballot was the wrong vote when they reviewed their ballots.

Five of the people called Rodríguez's office to complain, and 11 others called Paul Strelzin's morning radio show Friday reporting similar problems, Rodríguez said at a news conference late Friday afternoon.

Helen Jamison, El Paso County elections administrator, said all 156 machines used at 15 early-voting stations were checked Friday after her office was told of the complaints and "all tested fine."

"We've had them (Diebold voting machines) since 1999 and for over 100 elections and never had a problem with them," she said. The county has 1,035 machines, which have "tamper seals to prevent tampering," she said.

Rodríguez said he "felt it was important to bring it to the public's attention and (tell) people to still vote, but to check their (review) ballot before punching the 'cast ballot' button so their vote is accurate." His office alerted the office of the Texas secretary of state about the matter, he said.

Jamison said a voter has to be careful to touch the square directly in front of a candidate's name or it's possible a wrong vote could be registered. "That's why people should carefully look at the review ballot before casting their final ballot," she said.

Rodríguez said his office would try to interview the other people with complaints to try to determine whether there may be a widespread problem with the voting machines. Jamison said her office would "continue researching" the matter.

One man told Rodríguez he cast a vote for state Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso, but the review ballot showed he had voted for Dee Margo, Shapleigh's Republican challenger. The man, who voted at the Kern Place station, had to recast his vote three times before it registered correctly and the man could cast his final ballot, Rodríguez said. At least one other race was involved in a wrong-vote complaint, Rodríguez said, but he didn't know which race.

Rodríguez and Jamison didn't know where all the people who complained had voted. At least one person voted at the County Courthouse, Rodríguez said. Jamison said she heard that some had voted at Bassett and Miner Village stations.

No one apparently complained to election judges at the voting stations about the problems, as a voter should do, Rodríguez said.

Early voting ended Friday. Election Day is Tuesday.

Vic Kolenc may be reached at vkolenc@elpasotimes.com, 546-6421.

For more information: www.co.el-paso.tx.us/elections.

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