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Camden County errors trap votes in a few machines   (NJ)

Jan Hefler  Philadelphia Inquirer   08 November 2007

Camden County poll workers botched the retrieval of election results from seven electronic machines Tuesday night, and none of the votes cast on them will be counted - for now.

No election outcomes were affected because the machines were in places that did not have close races, County Superintendent of Elections Phyllis Pearl said. The machines were in Camden, Cherry Hill, Gloucester City, Oaklyn and Pennsauken.

Election workers failed to remove cartridges from the machines and did not deliver them to the Board of Elections on Tuesday, when votes were tallied, Pearl said.

"Sometimes a board worker will forget to take a cartridge out of a machine. It happens," she said, noting that poll workers start their day at 5 a.m. and don't finish until around 10 p.m.

All voting machines are impounded for 15 days after an election and cannot be opened without a court order, effectively trapping the cartridges that were left behind.

Pearl said she didn't believe a court order would be needed, unless absentee and provisional ballots significantly narrowed the margin in any of the races in the five towns.

Last year, the county bought about 660 electronic machines that record votes on cartridges. Pearl said that cartridges had been left behind in several elections, and that this was "not a major big deal."

When the 15 days pass, election officials can check the votes and readjust tallies, Pearl said.

But if an outcome changes, it will be too late for candidates to contest the result. They have only 15 days to file a legal appeal.

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