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NJ voting machine woes reported, but no major problems
ContraCosta Times, November 7, 2006 by TOM HESTER Jr.Associated Press

TRENTON, N.J. - Voting machine woes were reported in Essex and Camden counties Tuesday morning, but election officials said the problems were not widespread.

Tuesday's election was the first time voters in all 21 New Jersey counties cast ballots electronically in a statewide general election, though most counties have used the machines in other elections.

Four counties - Camden, Essex, Monmouth and Warren - were using the computerized machines for the first time Tuesday in a general election, though they all used the machines in other elections, such as primaries, earlier this year without major problems.

Phyllis Pearl, Camden County elections superintendent, said the county had problems with about 30 of its 700 machines, but reported no major problems. Pearl said the problems did not affect voting.

"We're not experiencing any grave errors," Pearl said.

She said county officials have been able to walk poll workers through most problems, and that emergency ballots were used if a machine technician wasn't readily available.

David Wald, spokesman for the state Attorney General's Office, said about 25 machines didn't work properly Tuesday in Irvington, East Orange, Montclair, Newark and West Orange in Essex County, which has about 600 voting machines.

He said people voted with emergency ballots as the machines were either repaired or replaced.

Republicans complained that in at least five voting booths in four Passaic County districts using electronic voting machines, a space next to the candidates that was supposed to be blank was already marked with a vote for Menendez. When voters tried to vote for a Republican candidate, the check marks would not change, the Republicans said.

Wald, who said all the complaints came from the city of Paterson, said the Attorney General's Office was looking into the matter.

Democrats also said they were aware of the complaints and were looking into them.

Under orders from state Attorney General Stuart Rabner, 550 state deputy attorneys general were on duty Tuesday to help county officials resolve voting-related legal issues.

The U.S. Justice Department sent federal election monitors to five New Jersey counties - Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex and Salem.

According to the department, the federal observers and monitors will watch and record activities to ensure counties are complying with federal voting law by, for example, determining whether voters are challenged improperly because of the language they speak.

New Jersey Democrats vowed to have 1,000 lawyers ready across the state to help voters who are improperly challenged. Democrats have alleged that Republicans may try to discourage some people from voting on Election Day, charges that the Republicans have denied.

The state has about 4.86 million registered voters this Election Day

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