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Voting machines stopped working  (NJ)

SARA K. SATULLO   The Express Times   07 February 2008

A programming error forced about 900 Warren County voters to use emergency ballots after a handful of machines that electronically encode ballots onto cards stopped working.

The problem with the encoders did not prevent any voters from casting a ballot, Warren County Clerk Patricia Kolb said Wednesday.
   It's funny most of them prefer (emergency ballots)," Kolb said. "I told one woman to wait just one second and everything would be fixed but she took the emergency ballot."

The clerk's office is responsible for programming each encoder to issue a set number of ballots based on eligible voters in a district. As a security measure, once that number is reached the machine refuses to encode more cards with ballots, Kolb explained.

Her office made a mistake during programming that caused the machines to stop issuing ballots in some districts before 9 a.m. The office had tried to program the encoder to issue a set number of ballots based on party affiliation.

But the encoder's internal counter doesn't distinguish between parties. So during programming the number of Democratic ballots overrode the Republican, which was put in first.

"In some districts we reached 100 percent quickly because there were few registered Democrats in many towns," Kolb said.

There were problems in seven districts, Kolb said, but Kolb and a team of three others visited all 90 districts and reprogrammed each machine to prevent further problems.

"We learned our lesson very well," Kolb said.

The encoders do not count votes so the reprogramming did not affect the final results. Also, emergency ballots were kept sealed until polls closed. Then election board workers visually inspected each one before putting it through an optical scan machine.

"The snafu that happened proved how well the procedures in place for problems work," election board administrator Mary Meyers said. "It went fairly quickly and nobody got turned away."

Meyers said some of the touch-screen voting machines needed to be swapped out early on but no major problems were reported with the machines.

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