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Election officials predict smooth election despite a few bugs
The News Sentinel, FortWayne.com, October 30, 2006
DEANNA MARTIN, Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS - Indiana election officials are bracing for a higher-than-normal turnout for the Nov. 7 midterm election but say the state's contested voter ID requirement and new machines to help disabled voters shouldn't create many glitches on Election Day.

"There will be some growing pains, but every election gets better," said Secretary of State Todd Rokita. "The election will be fair and accurate. That's all you can expect out of an election process that involves humans. We've never had a perfect election."

Many counties will have new touch-screen machines, required by the Help America Vote Act. Each Indiana precinct will have at least one of the machines, said Paul Okeson, deputy secretary of state.

"For the first time in Indiana history, our fellow Hoosiers with disabilities can vote independently," Okeson said.

The Secretary of State's office has been distributing training materials and counties have been working to train poll workers. About 60 percent of the state's voters already use touch-screen machines, but about 40 percent rely on optical scan machines.

Counties also have been testing machines to work out any bugs. Several counties have discovered problems with machines, software or ballots.

In Monroe County, a glitch in how the ballots are read could confuse certain straight-party voters, officials said. So poll workers plan to advise those voters on exactly what their vote will mean and how to cast it.

In Union County, officials had to postpone an election test earlier this month after they found that voting machines could not read the bar codes on ballots. The ballots were reprinted and software changed, and a subsequent election test was a success, said Pat Hensley, the Union County clerk.

"Things went fairly well in the primary, and I'm expecting them to go well in the general," she said.

Marion County had problems in the primary that affected some township races, but clerk Doris Anne Sadler said things have improved for the general election. She said her biggest concerns now are a shortage of poll workers and training them to use the touch-screen machines.

"All in all, I think it's going to go very smoothly if it continues on course," Sadler said. "As always, you say that with a grain of salt because things can happen."

Rokita predicted turnout would exceed the 38 percent of 2002, the last midterm election, because control of the Indiana and U.S. Houses are at stake. Democrats need 15 seats to gain control of the U.S. House, and three Indiana seats - northern Indiana's 2nd District and the 8th and 9th Districts in southern Indiana - are vulnerable.

Statewide, Republicans have a slim 52-48 majority in the Indiana House. Democrats hope to regain the chamber by tapping on the unpopularity of Gov. Mitch Daniels' decisions to enact statewide daylight-saving time and lease the Indiana Toll Road to a private firm for 75 years.

"We have some very competitive House races, both at the state level and the federal level," Rokita said.

Voters will be required to show valid, government-issued photo identification before casting ballots under a new state law that had its first test in the May primaries. Those who do not bring an ID to the voting booth can cast a provisional ballot and show identification within 10 days.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana and state Democrats have challenged the law before the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, saying it creates a burden for poor, elderly and disabled voters who might have difficulty getting identification. Republicans say it helps ensure fair elections by preventing voter fraud.

The court was not expected to rule before Election Day.

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