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White: Some voting machine problems persist

By Rob Schneider and Robert King  Indianapolis Star    06 November 2007
Scattered problems were reported at various polling sites around Marion County throughout the day today, but for most voters by mid-afternoon, things were going smoothly.

Marion County Clerk Mary Beth White said technicians were still dealing with some voting machine problems.

“Things are so, so much better than May,” White said, referring to last spring’s primary election when a number of precincts opened late and five didn’t open at all. “People are voting all around the county.”

At about noon today, technicians were working to fix 66 touch-screen voting machines, White said. Problems with the machines likely had to do with batteries that didn’t work or with the card that counts votes ed upside down in the machines while they were at the Marion County Election Warehouse, she said. If the card was upside down, she said, the machine would not work properly.

To further complicate the matter, the machines that count paper ballots will not work unless the touch-screen machines are operating, White said. White said she expected most if not all of the machines to be up and running by late afternoon. Even with the mechanical problems affecting 66 out of 529 touch-screen machines, voters still could fill out paper ballots that are stored in a secured bin until they can be counted, she added.

As of 2:15 p.m., 60 voters had reported polling problems to a database on IndyStar.com. Half of those complaints had to do with voting machine problems.

No problems were reported at Pike precincts 15 and 26 at the Eagle Creek Community Church, 5943 Lafayette Road, which opened on time at 6 a.m.

“I’m happy to report we rocked,” said inspector Julie Armstrong. “Everything has gone smoothly. The machines came on this morning without any problems.”

A strong turnout was reported at precincts around Marion County, but elections officials said they could not provide an actual estimate.

Responding to reports of voters unexpectedly finding that their precinct polling location has changed when they arrive at their traditional site, Scott Chinn, attorney for the Marion County Election board, said that less than 10 polling locations out of 484 across the county had changed.

It is typical in every election cycle in places that held poll sites before couldn’t hold it again, Chinn said.

There is no statutory regulation that requires officials to notify that their precinct’s polling places have changed. The mayor’s office s each precinct’s polling sites.

Both the Democratic and Republican parties sent out information letting voters know where their polling sites are, said GOP party chairman Tom John and Democratic party chairman Michael O’Connor.

A mistake in the voter rolls caused a problem affecting about 483 voters in 14 precincts, said GOP chairman Tom John and Democratic Party Chairman Michael O’Connor.

Voters who live on the east side of Delaware Street between 30th and 96th streets are affected, John and O’Connor said. Residents of these areas, particularly those in the Meridian-Kessler neighborhood, have been going to their longstanding polling places only to be told they are not on the rolls and told they need to go somewhere else. When they arrive at the location they had been directed to, they found they could not vote there as well, John and O’Connor said.

Officials from both the Democrat and Republican parties say that voters should stay at the precinct at which they traditionally vote. Poll workers should call the registration office and verify the information so those voters can vote at their traditional sites. Voters who experience this problem are urged to call the Marion County Board of Voter Registration at (317) 327-5040. Voters who experienced the problem earlier and left when they could not vote can return to their traditional polling sites, O’Connor and John said. Workers have been instructed on the procedure to allow them to vote.

John said officials are trying to figure out what caused the glitch. Neither he nor O’Connor could give an estimate of how many voters had tried to vote but didn’t because of this problem.

Mayor Bart Peterson and Greg Ballard, his Republican challenger, hit polling places nonstop this morning.

Peterson voted at 6:30 a.m. and has been stopping by precincts on Indianapolis’ Eastside. At the UAW hall on 30th Street east of Arlington, Peterson thanked volunteers working the phones to remind supporters to vote and see if they need a ride to their polling sites.

“All seems good,” Peterson said. “I’ve been optimistic and am optimistic. The reception has been very positive. We are going to keep going all the way until 6 o’clock tonight. It’s all about fighting for every vote. Well, not fighting, but encouraging every vote.”

Ballard started the day by voting near his home in Pike Township and has stopped by several sites on the Northside, said Debra Taylor, who has served as Ballard’s communication director.

Early this afternoon, Ballard visited Center United Methodist Church in Perry Township off of Bluff Road, where coffee, donuts and hot cider was being provided for voters and poll workers said turnout has been steady. Ballard said he is retaining his optimism throughout the day.

“I think heavy turnout is going on today,” he said. “I’ve always believed, and voter turnout just makes me more optimistic.”

Ballard said his campaign had overcome lack of funding and exposure and that he had connected with voters. He recalled a moment at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church earlier in the day when he introduced himself to a voter.

“I said, ‘I’m Greg Ballard,’“ he said. “She said, ‘And I’ve had enough.’“

Voting in suburban counties appeared to be going smoothly overall. An unexpected glitch in Hamilton County occurred when a few residents of southwest Clay Township tried to vote in neighboring City of Carmel election races.

Election Administrator Kathy Richardson said the outlying township residents were rightly turned away because their communities have not been annexed as part of the city yet and they are not eligible to vote.

She blamed the confusion on a sign erected at a church where the residents vote in countywide elections.

“Because they didn’t want people coming in there they posted a sign saying something about going to the Village of West Clay. That’s the closest polling site,” explained Richardson, who added that no one who normally votes at the church was eligible to vote Tuesday.

“By putting the sign up, it just confused them even more,” she said.

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