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Tom Green County experiences voting problems
Star-Telegram  Associated Press  November 8, 2006

SAN ANGELO, Texas - Voters in Tom Green County had to wait about 11 hours for final election returns because of problems associated with a high number of people electing to use paper ballots instead of electronic voting.

The county had a shortage of paper ballots at a third of its precincts and then problems processing the paper ballots from Tuesday's election.

"There's a huge amount of frustration with the elections office among the many voters I've talked to," Russ Duerstine, chairman of the Tom Green County Republican Party, told the San Angelo Standard-Times for its Thursday editions. "They want to see a change."

Elections Administrator Mike Benton acknowledged a failure to anticipate the number of people who would request paper ballots, but he said the problem resulted from allowing voters to choose between paper and electronic.

He said that 20 of the 60 precincts ran out of paper ballots starting at 11 a.m., but that ballots had been replaced by 5 p.m.

At the first of the year, the county's electronic-voting system was installed, he said. With the change, the county switched to a smaller, slower machine to process paper ballots. The high volume of voters preferring the paper ballots clogged the system and slowed the count. The county was forced to use scanning software in unused voting machines to help with the excess volume.

He said that electronic votes were counted by 10 p.m., but the unused voting machines were not equipped to handle that many paper ballots from multiple precincts and began to fail about 3 a.m.

"If we hadn't had paper ballots, we would have had a report at 9:30" Tuesday night, Benton told the newspaper.


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