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Ballot problem delays voting 90 minutes in Deerfield Beach
Miami Herald, BY SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN  07 November 2006

Dozens of voters who came to the Deerfield Beach Tower Club Teen Center to cast their votes this morning walked away angry, as 10 of 14 voting booths failed to work all of them for voters in Precinct 23A.

''I have two words for them paper ballots!'' said election volunteer John Miller, 78, who said he has worked at area elections the past 10 years. ``I come from New England, and they're still using paper ballots. They have no problems.''

Only three people had voted when all 14 machines stopped working. After about 45 minutes, voters in Precinct 26A were able to cast ballots on four machines. But most voters, those in Precinct 23A, were out of luck until about 8:30 a.m., when technicians were able to get at least some machines back online.

In the meantime, many would-be voters left, livid.

The problem, according to Broward Supervisor of Elections spokeswoman Mary Cooney, was a voting system technician who activated machines at one precinct with the cartridge for the other. Both precincts are housed at the teen center.

The mistake caused the machines to shut down. ''He did plenty of damage,'' Cooney said.

''Once in two years voting comes, and on that day the voting machines break down,'' said Pervaiz Abdullah, 45, the manager of a Subway shop in Wellington. ``It's ridiculous, there's no option for me to come back another time or day. I was supposed to be in at 9 a.m.. and now I can't make it until 10:30.''

Voting experts say scattered Election Day glitches are not uncommon, regardless of the type of system being used.

Elections officials resolved the Deerfield Beach problem by bringing in new voting machines and new cartridges. The technician also was replaced.

Robert Walker, 36, a project manager for a communications contracting company, got to the polling place just after it opened. When he saw the problem, he immediately called Snipes' office to ask for help.

''This is completely, completely unacceptable,'' Walker said. 'The woman before me in line said, `OK, I'm screwed now. I work in Fort Lauderdale until 9 p.m. I can't come back.' She left.''

One police officer, Richard Fortunato, ''from a town in Broward County,'' was being very polite but said he didn't know if he could hold out. ''I worked 16 hours yesterday, and I have to be back for another double shift at 2 p.m. today,'' Fortunato said. ``I'm very tired. We'll see what happens.''

Cooney was matter-of-fact. ''They are voting now,'' she said. ``It took a lot longer to resolve than we would have liked.''

Outside the polling place, Cliff Germano, a training director for a local union who was there on behalf of the Florida AFL-CIO, handed out sheets with voting information. He watched people marching in happy and marching out angry.

''The last couple of elections you heard all the horror stories people turned away, machines not working,'' Germano said. ``You would have thought they would have fixed those problems by now.''

Miami Herald staff writer Trenton Daniel contributed to this report.


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