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Voting machine glitches statewide delay results
Greg Kocher Lexington Herald-Leader 09 November 2006

Some county officials were particularly groggy yesterday, having received only a few hours' sleep after enduring Tuesday's election night problems.

The glitches were particularly acute in Scott and Woodford counties, where final results weren't posted until about 1:30 a.m. and 2:30 a.m., respectively.

But there were vote-reporting problems all over the commonwealth, said Les Fugate, spokesman for the Kentucky secretary of state.

"This was too much. We should not have this many failures in an election," Fugate said.

Democratic House Speaker Jody Richards yesterday called the new electronic voting machines "horrible."

The Scott and Woodford problems were caused by trouble combining information from older voting machines and newer voting machines to get one tally from each precinct.

"There's a fusion system that's supposed to put them all together, and they do not have it perfected," said Scott County Clerk Jackie Covington.

That forced old-fashioned hand tabulations that took hours to complete.

Aside from Scott and Woodford, the counties with cartridge-reading problems were Bourbon, Boyle, Bullitt, Daviess, Grant and Nelson.

A lack of money is the reason that many counties lack uniformity in their voting machines.

The state received about $20 million to purchase at least one new voting machine for every precinct in the state. Those machines had to be accessible to voters with disabilities, as required by federal law. Trouble was, there wasn't enough money for all counties to go to a uniform system.

Fayette County spent the money to go to one voting system, but many counties don't have the money to do that, said Sarah Johnson, executive director of the State Board of Elections.

Only hours before Richards ripped the machines, Grayson, a Republican, formally requested more money from the legislature to buy a new machine for every one of the state's 3,500 precincts across the state.

The state does have $14 million in federal funds from the U.S. Help America Vote Act that could be transferred to help cover those costs, Fugate said.

Another election night problem is that scanners used to read absentee ballots weren't working properly. Counties reporting scanner problems were Bell, Bullitt, Breckinridge, Henry, LaRue, Livingston, Marion, Pulaski, Union, Warren, Wayne, Webster and Woodford, Fugate said.

But not all the problems experienced Tuesday night were related to technology.

In Woodford County, confusion arose because of the recent annexation of properties into the city of Versailles. Precinct workers initially didn't have information to discern whether voters in "split precincts" divided between city and county should cast ballots in city or county elections.

County Attorney Alan George said the voter registration book in his precinct did not indicate whether a voter lived in the city or county.

Voters "were asked a series of questions to try to confirm they lived in the city," George said. "To a point, I guess it was left to the honor system."

Woodford Deputy Sheriff Wayne "Tiny" Wright, who wrote a routine report about the election for the commonwealth's attorney, said street indexes and maps highlighting city streets were sent to polling places to assist poll workers.

Under state law, it's the responsibility of cities and school boards to provide to the county clerk information to maintain a roster of eligible voters, Johnson said.

It's also the county clerk's responsibility to code all registered voters so precinct officers may determine a person's eligibility to vote in city and school board elections, Johnson said.

Woodford County Clerk Corine Woolums was not available to comment yesterday.

George said it's impossible to know whether the problem affected the outcome of a race.

"You don't know whether or not votes were cast that should not have been cast," George said. And even if that was known, "How do you know who they may have voted for?"

Ron Durbin, a candidate for Versailles City Council who lost by only 12 votes, said he does not plan to file an objection with the Woodford Board of Election.

"I'll live with it," Durbin said. "I don't want to be the sour grapes."

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