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Notable glitches mar otherwise smooth voting in Palm Beach County
Ron Hayes   Palm Beach Post    29 January 2008

As polling stations opened at 7 a.m. Tuesday, most Palm Beach County voters found democracy to be a quick and painless freedom, with only a few self-inflicted glitches to mar the morning.

At Kings Point in suburban Delray Beach, voters encountered delays after a poll worker mistakenly shut down the voting machines, Elections Supervisor Arthur Anderson told reporters.

"They were on and then someone mistakenly, accidentally turned them off," Anderson said while visiting H.L. Johnson Elementary School in Royal Palm Beach. "Allegedly someone tripped over a line or something like that."

The machines couldn't be turned back on, so workers had to bring in replacement machines and program them. "It's going to delay the process," he said.

What about voters who have to get to work and can't make it back to the polls before they close at 7 p.m.? Anderson said the state would probably have to approve any extension of the closing time. But at the very least, he said, anyone who's in line by 7 p.m. will be allowed to vote.

Voters also face a shorter voting window at Precinct 5014 at 9045 Jog Road west of Boynton Beach, which opened nearly an hour late.

"I was told that they delivered the machines to the wrong location," voter Karen Brill said. Brill and her son arrived at 7:05 a.m. to vote, but polls didn't open until 7:50 a.m. A few other voters waited, but some left, she said.

Brill also was surprised by the lack of signs directing voters to the polling place. "I thought I was at the wrong place," she said.

Kathy Adams, a spokesperson for the Supervisor of Elections, confirmed Brill's account by said all was up and running smoothly once the wayward machines were delivered.

At Fire Station No. 2 on Woolbright Road just west of Congress Avenue, a problem with a card activator briefly interrupted the voting, according to precinct clerk Christi Macaluso.

"It was a five-minute glitch," Macaluso said.

Workers made two phone calls to elections headquarters and got the problem solved. To Macaluso's knowledge only two voters were inconvenienced and will have to come back later today.

Rabbi Richard Yellin, one of the voters who was turned away, said he arrived at 6 a.m. in order to be the first person in, which he was.

His said his first card didn't work, and he tried it on several screens. It then was registered as a bad card.

The subsequent cards he was given would not work. He said one woman among the first voters was able to vote.

Yellin said he then had to leave in order to make it to a service on time.

At that point, "I said a prayer and prayed for open elections," he said. He does intend to come back later in the day to vote.

For Supervisor of Elections Anderson himself, voting went smoothly at his own polling place, Western Pines Middle School in The Acreage.

"I'm a satisfied customer," he said, emerging from the school shortly after the polls opened. He was one of a handful of voters who appeared as the doors opened, although more cars had begun trickling into the parking lot by 7:20 a.m.

But unlike his predecessor, former Elections Supervisor Theresa LePore, Anderson would not allow reporters to follow him into the polling place to verify that the machines had all been booted and to observe any problems voters might be having.

He insisted journalists remain 150 feet from the polling place, although that demarcation was not clearly marked outside.

Also arriving early at Western Pines was first-time voter James Shackelford, whose voting experience survived a self-inflicted error.

Shackelford, 18, initially voted the way he hadn't intended on Amendment 1, the ballot measure to cut the state's property taxes.

"But I fixed it," he said, adding that the error wasn't the machine's.

"I can understand why there's so much controversy with the machines ... it gives you this whole long page for Amendment 1, you read through the whole page, and then it's yes or no at the bottom," he said. "But thank goodness I know my amendments."

Otherwise, the Florida Atlantic University student was hoping for a big day for his favorite presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee. Shackelford is the College Republicans' Huckabee campaign chairman at FAU's Boca Raton campus, where the Arkansas hopeful appeared at last week's debate with other GOP rivals.

"He took FAU by storm," Shackelford said. "He's got a lot of grassroots support."

At Precinct 2072 in the First Evangelical Lutheran Church on Parker Avenue in West Palm Beach, voters arriving by 7:20 a.m. found Judith Hobson-Mitchell, 58, already set up by her car and armed with a Barack Obama T-shirt, five buttons, three bumper stickers and a placard taped to a mop handle, ready to spend the day.

"I'll take a little time off for lunch around 3," vowed Hobson-Mitchell, just back from four days campaigning in South Carolina, "but other than that I'm here until the polls close. Hillary may have found her voice in New Hampshire, but obama has known our voice all along." She laughed. "I thought that one up last night."

At the Royal Palm Beach Village Hall, security was posted at the door to keep sign wavers beyond an invisible 100-foot line.

In past elections, sign wavers became so passionate and frantic, that they reportedly discouraged people from voting. They would wait for people to pull into the village hall parking lot, then thrust fliers in faces and car windows.

Although this year, there were still a number of people outside with fliers and other campaign flair, they were not nearly as lively as they have been in years past.

Diana Iannuzzi said things inside the polling place on the corner of Royal Palm Beach Boulevard and Okeechobee Boulevard were running smoothly.

Tom Hertzfeldt also had no problems voting, although he said one poll volunteer told him he could vote for anyone he wanted - Republican or Democrat - in the primary and he soon discovered that was not the case. Other than that, he said, he had a smooth voting experience.

In Wellington, a steady trickle of early morning voters made their way inside the town's community center.

No one reported any problems with voting procedure at the polling station, located just off Forest Hill Boulevard.

"It went really easy," said Ken Treadwell. "Things are going smooth in there - at least on the machine I was on."

One thing no machine can do, no matter how smoothly it's running, is tell voters which candidate should get their vote.

As attorney Greg Winters walked into Precinct 4182 at the historic former Boca Raton rail station to vote, he still didn't know for whom he would cast his ballot. The "solid Democrat," who has voted since 1978, said this is a first.

He started supporting John Edwards, "but the last couple of weeks I decided he couldn't win."

Winters said he went to bed supporting Barack Obama, woke up leaning towards Clinton, "and I still haven't decided."

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