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Election glitches could result in challenges
Richard Lake    The Clarion-Ledger    06 November 2007

Candidates in some of Hinds County’s split precincts were worried today that mistakes made by poll workers could impact election results.

In several split precincts, poll workers sometimes called up the incorrect ballot on voting machines for some voters, election officials and candidates said.

Hinds County Elections Commissioner Connie Cochran said she would not be surprised if election results are challenged because of the problem.

The problem was confined to split precincts, which cover more than one legislative district. The precincts that reported problems were 37, 81 and 93.

“It’s the same problem they had back in August,” Precinct 81 voter Bill Dilday said. “I don’t understand why the election commission cannot get it right.”

It led to some voters not being able to vote in some races. Affected races included incumbent John Reeves, R-Jackson, against Democrat Adrienne Wooten for House District 71, and the race in House District 66, pitting Cecil Brown, D-Jackson, against Republican Corey Wilson.

“Any time a person is intervening between a voter and his or her vote, that is cause for alarm,” Reeves said. “Any time. Anywhere.”

No one knows how many votes might have been affected, and Cochran said it’s impossible to know. She noted that some voters who complain might be the ones who are mistaken, not necessarily the election worker.

“I think there is confusion on both the workers’ and the voters’ part,” Cochran said.

It worked like this, according to the campaigns: A voter would be sent to a machine to vote, and a poll worker would call up the voter’s ballot. Sometimes, that worker would call up ballot B instead of ballot A for a specific voter.

All but one of the races would be on the ballot, so it is likely most voters did not notice the missing race.

Michael Raymond, Wilson’s campaign manager, said the issue probably wouldn’t be a big deal if either candidate won by a landslide, but it could be a serious problem in a close race.

Cochran said poll workers are trained, but that doesn’t mean they won’t make mistakes.

“It appears as though many of them have forgotten,” she said. “I don’t know how extensive it is. I’ve dealt only with isolated cases.”

Andrew Robinson, the manager of one of the affected precincts, 93 in Jackson, denied there was a problem. “It’s been real smooth today,” he said this afternoon.

Voter John Cress, 74, said he had no problem voting in the precinct.

Elsewhere in and around Jackson, less potentially serious problems were reported.

At least two precincts in Hinds County got off to a late start, one because workers had the wrong poll book and one because poll workers were locked out.

There were other minor glitches reported, such as a voting machine or two needing to be rebooted before they’d work.

State Sen. Perry Lee said there was a problem with at least one machine in Mendenhall — it would vote for the opposite candidate. Officials with the Simpson County Circuit Clerk’s office said that problem was limited to one voter who apparently had used the machine incorrectly.

Circuit clerks in Rankin, Madison and Yazoo counties reported nothing serious, just the busy rush at 7 a.m. followed by a steady flow of voters. The secretary of state’s office and the American Civil Liberties Union also said no serious problems were reported.

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