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Touch-screens failed in more than 24 of 62 devices tested in Montgomery County after voters complained.
By Lynn Hulsey, Staff Writer. Tuesday, March 20, 2007

DAYTON Voting machines malfunctioned repeatedly during testing Monday as Montgomery County officials responded to complaints that the touch-screen electronic machines inaccurately recorded votes during the November election.

Officials found more than two dozen machines out of 62 tested recorded votes inaccurately; they anticipate finding more problems today when they test another 63 machines.

"I'm surprised the number that we have here," said Mark Radke, director of marketing for voting machine supplier Diebold Elections Systems.

The failures raise concerns that an undetermined number of voters may have cast ballots without noticing the mistakes, said Ellis Jacobs, senior attorney for Advocates for Basic Legal Equality Inc.

Officials believe the machines properly tally the votes recorded, said Steve Harsman, director of the Montgomery County Board of Elections. The problem is that the machines did not always accurately record the vote in the first place.

For example: In the Ohio Supreme Court race the tester touched the edge of the box for Ben Espy and the machine instead marked his opponent, Robert Cupp. In another case a "yes" vote for State Issue 1 repeatedly resulted in the machine recording a "no" vote.

"Hundreds, if not thousands, voted on (these machines). You would think most of the voters would have caught that error but it's very likely that some of them didn't," Jacobs said.

His group collected complaints from voters about the machines in November and called for an investigation by the county board of elections and Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner. The machines being tested this week were the ones identified in those complaints.

On Monday Brunner sent three representatives to observe the testing and will use that experience to assist with a planned statewide review of electronic voting machines, said Patrick Gallaway, communications director for Brunner.

Radke defended the quality of the machines, saying problems were found in a fraction of the 2,530 voting machines used by Montgomery County. He also said the malfunctions may be linked to the machines being jarred during transport to voting places.

Radke said the machines allow voters to easily check that their votes registered properly before casting their electronic ballots.

Harsman said lessons learned in the testing process such as the use of a fine-point stylus rather than a finger to calibrate them will improve voting machine performance in future elections. Recalibration of the screens resolved the problem in 14 machines on Monday and five identified last week. Another 14 will be sent back to Diebold because they couldn't be fixed, Harsman said.

Contact this reporter at (937) 225-7455 or

lhulsey@DaytonDailyNews.com.



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