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AT THE POLLS: Problems with voting machines; reaction mixed on tax amendment
Herald Tribune, 29 January 2008

5:25 p.m. (Manatee County) Some voters assume that the closest voting precinct to their home is where they should vote.

But as a few Manatee County voters found out Tuesday morning, that assumption is wrong.

Two sisters, Lashamma Franklin and Sylvia Jones, learned they were at the wrong place when they got to Precinct 47 on 15th Street East.

When poll workers swiped their licenses on the Electronic Voting Identification machine, a ticket printed out that listed the correct voting places. Franklin had to go to the Samoset neighborhood and Jones had to go to River Trace Senior Apartments, a few miles from where they currently were.

“That’s not going to stop us from voting,” said 28-year-old Jones, who is waiting until she gets to the voting booth to choose between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

A poll worker at Precinct 47, Alice Peters, said the EVID machines make her job easier. The electronic devices replaced the old paper booklets about two years ago. With the old paper books, the poll workers had to sift through the papers to find the voter's name.

“The machine just prints out a receipt and tells them where to go,” Peters said. “It’s easy for us and faster for voters.”

Other than a few frustrated voters in the wrong place, election day seemed to be running smoothly in Manatee County.

Although voter turnout was lower than usual — at least at one Manatee County precinct, according to Lillie Covington, a polling place clerk.

“With the Democrats being punished and losing the delegates, you don’t have too many people interested it seems,” Covington said. “Come November, we’ll be packing them in.”

As of noontime, Manatee County Supervisor of Elections, Bob Sweat, said election day had been busy, but uneventful — so far. The phones have been ringing a lot with voters on the other end wanting to know where to go to vote.

“Knock on wood. So far so good,” said Sweat, who is camped out at the Supervisor of Elections headquarters.


12:57 p.m. (Sarasota)

A total of six optical scan voting machines had to be replaced this morning because they were not working.

“They were all tested before and for various reasons they just went bad,” said Kathy Dent, Sarasota County supervisor of elections.

Some machines had problems with the memory card, while others had a faulty scanner.

Dent said backup machines are located downtown and in south Sarasota County, and crews are on standby to rush the new machines to precincts where problems are reported.

“They are replacing the scanners as soon as we get the call,” Dent said.
In the case of a machine failure, poll workers are collecting voters’ ballots and placing them in an “auxiliary” bin on the side of the scan machines.

Those ballots will be entered into the system via the scan machines at 7 p.m. tonight after the polls close.

Dent said she was not sure how many ballots would be counted tonight.

Roger Drouin


12:20 p.m. (Sarasota)

At precinct 125, at Colonial Oaks Park in Sarasota, Amendment One, didn’t have strong support Tuesday morning among voters questioned at the polls.

Andy Cappar, 35, of Sarasota voted for the tax cut, but he said the amendment was a “compromise” at best.

“It’s going to help with the bigger homestead, but I know I’ll have to pay in a different way, or they’ll take the money out of school programs or other services.”

Gail Pettit voted against Amendment One. “I am voting for my grandchildren,” Pettit, who has lived in Sarasota for 26 years. “You can’t have services without taxes.” Pettit is a former teacher and her daughter is also a teacher. The mother doesn't is concerned the amendment would decrease tax revenue to the school system

Roger Drouin


10:30 a.m. (Sarasota)

Problems were reported with two optical scan machines this morning as voters went to the polls.

At Precinct 125, in Colonial Oaks Park, an optical scanner was out of order from 7:15 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., according to voters at the precinct. A precinct supervisor would not confirm how long the machine was down, but said the problem was caused by a paper jam, and that poll workers fixed it. He declined to elaborate.

Dent said the ballots cast during the two-hour period when the machine was down have been set aside and will be scanned in tonight at 7 p.m. She did not know how many ballots were affected.

Gail Hoyt was standing in line at 7:15 a.m. when the machine stopped working. "They didn't know what to do and finally one of the volunteers made a call and took all of the ballots and put them in a pile."

Dent said the volunteer had accidentally opened the bottom of the machine, causing some of the ballots to fall out.

Those ballots, along with those handed in by voters while the scanner was not working, will be counted tonight at 7 p.m.

At Precinct 46 in Nokomis, an optical scanner had to be replaced with another machine because of a problem with a memory card, Dent said. The machine was replaced with a backup machine. Dent said elections officials expected some problems with the 156 machines and had several backups available.

Roger Drouin


Manatee County (10:45 a.m.)

MANATEE Dana Olson was starting to worry this morning that she might be late to work because of a holdup at her polling site.

Even though there were no lines at the polls at the Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church on Prospect Road in South Manatee, Olson waited nearly an hour, she said, before she was allowed to vote because of a registration problem.

Olson said she moved from Sarasota County to Manatee recently and thought she was all set because she d her driver's license at the motor vehicle office. But she said in Manatee, they didn't offer to her voter registration at that time, like they did in the past in Sarasota County when she moved.

Eventually, the poll manager, who had trouble with her phones, got things straightened out, and Olson was allowed to register on site and get her vote counted.

"It was crazy," she said. "I was worried because I feel this is a very, very important thing to do."

Another voter at Beautiful Savior, Norman Pillman, was also growing frustrated as he waited about a half-hour to get his ballot.

Pillman also moved from Sarasota to Manatee, but his move was a year and a half ago and he's already voted once in Manatee. In November, he also had to wait because even though his voter registration card and driver's license had his correct Manatee address, the computer voting system still had him registered in Sarasota, he said.

"This is sad in today's world," said Pillman. "The computer system is antiquated."

Overall, however, most voters found no lines and quick access to the polls at Beautiful Savior between 9 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. today.

Bart Pfankuch

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