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Officials wait for word on counting more than 2,500 votes
Election workers do what they can while they wait for word on the problem machine.
WATE 6, the News Station  November 9, 2006

KNOXVILLE Knox County election officials hope to learn Thursday whether more than 2,500 votes can be counted after a computer error with a voting machine. The answer will decide a deadlocked pension question involving Knox County sheriff's officers.

The machine was used for early voting at the polling place on Downtown West Blvd. in West Knoxville.

Knox County Election Commission Chair Pamela Reeves explains what happened to the machine. "Apparently, what it did was it smoked. I don't know what caused it to smoke, but it was literally smoking. So they unhooked it at the time. Of course, we don't read the votes and we didn't know there was a problem until we went to read the votes Tuesday night."

Election Administrator Greg Mackay explains, "The machine won't print the hard copy right now so they have several options. They can either read the chips and repair the data card or if they get the machine to print the hard copy, then we can just type in the numbers."

Election officials say the estimated number of votes affected is 2,625.

The company that makes the machines, Hart Interactive, sent a technical expert and two engineers to Knoxville Wednesday.

The experts, along with all interested parties opened the machine and got a slightly clearer picture of what went wrong. 

"They've discovered a small defect with the one of the voltage systems within the machine," says election commission secretary Chris Heagerty. "Now what we have found out is that memory portion that holds the votes we believe has not been affected."

Election officials stress that they are hopeful the votes can be retrieved. They will likely find out Thursday when they take the machine to an area lab to inspect the memory chips.

In the meantime, they locked the machine in a vault at the election commission.

For many Knox County deputies, the numbers will determine their future. The passing of the proposed pension would mean better retirement benefits for the officers.

"I'm remaining optimistic," says Stan McCroskey, with the Fraternal Order of Police.

But the plan will likely cost $57 million over the next 30 years. The county's options are to rearrange the budget or increase taxes.

Officials have not decided what lab has the proper technicians and equipment to examine the chips without damaging them.

But they are contacting UT Batelle, possibly ORNL and others to find out who can take on the task.


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