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Vote machine problems reported
By Louis Short/ Sun-Times Staff
Published: Monday, November 27, 2006 8:29 AM CST

Are you sure the vote you cast for Heber Springs mayor went to the person you chose? Mayoral candidate Jackie McPherson, who is facing incumbent Paul Muse in a current runoff election, called The Sun-Times Tuesday afternoon reporting a problem with the electronic voting machines. "Votes cast for me went to Paul," he said. "My mother-in-law and her mom went to vote and when they touched my button on the touch screen a vote was cast for Paul. They realized the problem and didn't finalize their vote."

McPherson was contacted during the first week of early voting by Bill Orr, reporting the same problem. "He called and reported to me when he cast his ballot on the new touch screen voting devices that instead of the machine showing a vote for me, it showed one for Paul," McPherson said. ""Bill said he realized this and didn't finalize his vote. He contacted someone in the County Clerk's Office and they checked on the machine and fixed the problem, but how many other people have voted and didn't catch the mistake?"

The Sun-Times contacted Orr to get his side of the report. "I voted on either the second or third day of early voting for the runoff," Orr said. "Paul Muse was listed on top and Jackie McPherson was listed on bottom. When I was at the courthouse I was told how to vote using the machine. I punched the button for Jackie and Paul's name came up. I called a gal in and told her. She said the vote wasn't finalized. I told her I voted for Jackie and it showed the vote for Paul. The machine was worked on a little while and when I tried it again Jackie's name came up. It makes you wonder who didn't catch this when they voted."

McPherson went to County Clerk Dana Guffey's Office to check out the reports for himself. "I told her what had been reported to me," he said. "She didn't think that was possible. We went to one of the two machines being used for early voting and tested it. Sure enough, when I pushed the screen in my box it showed a vote for Paul. We never finalized the vote and went through the process 20 times or so and throughout, even though I was pushing inside my vote box, votes were cast for Paul when I pushed my button.

"I pointed out that my finger was clearly in my voting box but yet the vote went to Paul. I pointed out there was daylight above my finger, between my finger and the box for Paul, but the vote went to him. Each time we went through the process I moved my finger down the screen, into my box more each time. Votes started showing for me nearly at the bottom of my voting box. She recalibrated the machine and it worked, but how many people cast votes for me and didn't realize the problem when they finalized their vote?"

County Clerk Dana Guffey said McPherson reported the potential problem to her Tuesday. "We tried out both machines," she said. "One worked fine. The other one, when the screen in his (McPherson's) voting area was touched, it didn't work right. Sometimes it worked fine and sometimes it didn't."

When McPherson was at Guffey's office 252 people had voted on the machine in question. On the machine that was working properly there had been 173 votes cast. As of 11 a.m. Wednesday, 462 people had early voted.

The machine was recalibrated. "I had to make the machine realign the touch," Guffey said. "Once it was recalibrated and the touch was where it was supposed to be, it worked fine. We tried it five or six times and it worked fine."

None of the votes were actually cast. "Ballots were cast as blank ballots during this testing," said Guffey.

McPherson contacted Election Commissioner Joe Tournear Tuesday evening. "He said the election would have to go on and I would have to get a court order to review the machines and the problem that obviously exists," McPherson said.

Tournear was contacted Wednesday morning about the report by McPherson. "Before a ballot is finalized the voter is shown a review page and that shows them who they chose," he said. "At that point they could see what registered."

With only two names on the runoff ballot a lot of people might just assume the person they voted for was actually chosen. "At this point we don't know if voters vote counted as they ed," said Tournear. "We will have to wait until after the election and Jackie has the right to ask for a recount. If he asks for a recount then we will take the rolls from the machines and recount the votes. We will also look at voting trends to see what the trends were. If during a period there is a heavy trend for one or the other then we will look at it further. It will have to go to a judge for a further investigation."

McPherson is also questioning machine accuracy for the general election. "This time there are only two people on the ballot," he said. "But what happened when there were seven people on the ballot for mayor in the general election? How many votes went to the wrong person for the mayor race or other races and the voter didn't realize it? It's scary to think these machines can malfunction."

If you have early voted and during the voting process you thought you made a mistake because the machine showed a different vote cast than you chose, McPherson asks you to call him, Guffey's office, The Sun-Times, and the election commission

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