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Ballot scanners jam at Bay Area polling places
Inside Bay Area  By Ian Hoffman, Staff Writer 07 November 2006

While pollworkers and voters elsewhere struggled with newfangled touch screen voting machines, Californians were having a rather different experience.

In San Mateo County, where officials long had rejected electronic voting, new touch screen machines made a smooth debut. It was the opposite across the San Francisco Bay, where Alameda County hit a snag in its retreat from touch screens back to paper ballots for the first time in four years.

Poll workers in an estimated 100 polling places or about one in eight had ballots jam in legions of new optical scanners supplied by Oakland-based Sequoia Voting Systems.

The problem apparently was the ballot itself, printed by a private contractor, K&H Integrated Print Solutions, in Everett, Wash. The ballots featured a perforated strip at the top with a voter number that poll workers were to tear off and hand to the voter before ing the rest of the ballot in the optical scanners. But the perforations were poor to non-existent, according to poll workers and county elections officials, leaving a ragged edge that jammed in the scanners.

As late as 4 p.m., some poll workers still were trying to wrest ballots free of the machines and get them working again, said Guy Ashley, spokesman for the Alameda County registrar of voter's office.

"We've had frazzled poll workers because when the machines don't work, they're worried that voters are going to be unhappy,'' he said.

But unlike in past years, when breakdowns in electronic-voting equipment caused long lines at the polls and sent some voters home without voting, the county's paper system allowed poll workers to continue taking ballots for scanning later. Boxes of ballots were being carried to high-speed central scanners capable of handling thousands of ballots an hour.

"The voters have been able to vote, and we're going to get their ballots scanned and counted tonight,'' Ashley said.

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