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Final vote count still out
ELECTION: Machines that don't 'talk,' provisional ballots hold up tally
nwitimes.com  BY BILL DOLAN November 15, 2006

Lake County elections board Director Sally LaSota said Monday that the job of canvassing all the votes cast in the Nov. 7 general election won't be done before Monday.

Fortunately, all but a handful of the races already have been settled by decisive margins.

Counting all votes once took a matter of hours, but LaSota said that time line has been drawn out by laws designed to ensure voter access and security against vote fraud.

The county purchased more than 500 electronic voting machines, called Infinity machines, last year to comply with federal law requiring a machine that is more accessible to handicapped voters.

Poll workers' unfamiliarity with how to operate the new machines has led to questions about whether more than 60 Infinity machines were ever activated on Election Day or properly canvassed after the polls closed.

Staff workers must examine each machine to resolve the matter.

The Infinity presents another problem, officials said. It doesn't share data with county's older MicroVote-464 machines, forcing election workers to perform additional math steps to get a grand total. In all races, 84,161 votes were cast on the MV-464s and 13,216 were cast on the Infinity machines.

Steve Shamo, of MicroVote General Corp., the manufacturer of the county's electronic voting machines, said his company created a way for the two machines to talk, but the federal government disapproved of that.

LaSota said another reason for the delay is a state law that keeps the count from being final and official until after the noon Nov. 20 deadline for voters who cast provisional ballots.

State law now requires voters to present a photo ID at the polls. It also allows those who forgot their IDs to cast to a provisional ballot on election day and bring in their IDs later.

Provisional ballots also may be cast by people who have a dispute with polling place workers about whether they are properly registered to vote.

LaSota said counting provisional ballots puts a new time-consuming burden on election workers, who must investigate each ballot cast in the county's 554 precincts to ensure the voters in question are properly registered.

"We are trying to pour through," LaSota said.

She said the elections board is tentatively scheduled to meet Thursday to go through the dozens of provisional ballots to decide which to reject, which to count and which to hold until the Nov. 20 deadline.


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