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Vote miscount in city precinct a result of rare technical glitch  (IL)

Deepa Seetharaman   The Daily Northwestern   07 February 2008

An apparent miscounting of votes in the first precinct of Evanston's Second Ward was the result of a technical glitch, said Courtney Greve, spokeswoman for the Cook County Clerk's Office.

The miscounting was likely the result of a transmission error from one of the voting machines, Greve said. The error was corrected later Tuesday night.

Election returns from the precinct were missing 247 of 540 ballots, poll watcher Shannon Seiberling told The Daily Tuesday. .The polling place, located at the McGaw YMCA, 1000 Grove St., used a combination of optical-scan and computerized voting systems.

Seiberling, who works for Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), said the error might have occurred when poll workers were compiling the results from the voting machines. Election judges called the Cook County Clerk's Office to report the problem, she added.

But the office has no record of the judges' phone calls, Greve said. The office keeps detailed records of calls from election judges.

Most likely, judges were unable to transmit information about the votes from the precinct, Greve said. But she said the mistake was caught within an hour of poll workers packing up the precinct.

Yet, the office was "able to transmit the data from the receiving station," she said, referring to the location all voting machines were sent to when polls closed at 7 p.m. At the receiving station, votes were tallied again.

By 10:30 p.m., about 80 percent of the 540 ballots were counted, she said. About 60 percent of the precinct showed up to vote, far beyond the norm.

"These things happen," Greve said. "There is always a back-up."

The optical scan ballot is similar to a standardized test in that voters make ions by marking circles directly on the ballot next to the name of their preferred candidate. The voter then places the ballot into a machine that scans for errors before storing it in a secure box. The computerized voting system functions similarly to an ATM machine, with the voter touching their candidate's name on a screen. The machine then prints a paper copy of the voter's choices.

Virginia Rosenberg, president of the League of Women Voters of Evanston, said she hadn't heard about the miscounted votes. She also said that such technical malfunctions are somewhat rare.

But Rosenberg, whose group helped oversee Tuesday's election, said overall the voting process went fairly smoothly.

"Machines are fallible," Rosenberg said. "If they had one machine (fail), they did pretty well."

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