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Voting integrity questioned

May 10, 2007
By John Byrne Post-Tribune staff writer

CROWN POINT Forty years after he was nominated as the Democratic candidate for mayor of Gary, Richard Hatcher spent the early morning Wednesday sweating out his daughter's victory in the Democratic Gary City Council primary.

Computer problems at the Lake County Elections and Voter Registration Office delayed results from the municipal primaries until 1 a.m., seven hours after polls closed.

When the tallies finally rolled off the copier, Hatcher was jubilant. Ragen was comfortably in the third spot in at-large voting, where the top three go to the council.

Despite the good news, Hatcher questioned the lack of transparency in Lake County's voting system.

Computers froze in the election office Tuesday night when officials attempted to electronically transfer the tallies from individual voting machines to the mainframe designed to compile the results.

Recognizing the glitch in the program that reads the cartridges from the machines, elections workers began the tedious task of manually entering the vote totals from remaining vote machine cartridges.

Hatcher paced in the lobby of the office while the votes were compiled in the back, and later pointed out the manual count was not as open a process as it should have been.

"I'm not trying to impugn anybody's honesty, but we just don't know what was going on with that count," Hatcher said.

"Given Lake County's election history, it's imperative the integrity of the process is established beyond a doubt."

Election officers said the computer system was the same one used on other recent elections without any problems.

Wednesday afternoon they were still trying to determine what exactly went wrong.

In addition to the regular voting machines, several Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant machines remained in the field Wednesday, so officials were not prepared to finalize vote totals in numerous close races.

Also, provisional ballots remain outstanding. Voters who cast them have 10 days after the primary to bring in the information missing when they voted, such as an ID card.

If they don't provide the information, the Lake County Election Board will void the provisional ballot.

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