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Printers slow voting machines   (WV)

CHRISTIAN ALEXANDERSEN   Huntington Herald Dispatch    21 May 2008

While the iVotronic Touch Screen Voting System was implemented to make voting easier for voters, Cabell and Wayne county clerks found out during the primary election that kinks need to be worked out before the November general election.

Wayne County Clerk Bob Pasley said several voting machines malfunctioned during the primary. The main problem, he said, were the printers attached to the voting machines. The printer prints out, in real time, all of the choices made on the touch screen. Each time a choice is made, changed or modified during the voting process, a log is printed out.

Pasley said several of the printers jammed, causing certain votes to be counted and digitally saved, but not displayed on the paper receipt. Machines in about eight to 10 voting precincts had paper jams, he said. Having a real-time printer attached to the machines just causes more problems than it solves, he said.

"The paper and printer give you a false sense of security," he said. "When the paper jams, the votes might not show up on the paper but the votes will still be counted."

Aside from providing a paper trail, the voting system records the choices made internally. Photo images of the ballots are saved internally and are there in case of a recount.

Cabell County Clerk Karen Cole said she had similar problems with the machines. The county began using an older version of the iVotronic voting machine in the 2000 general election. In 2004, in accordance with the national Help America Vote Act of 2002, printers were added to the machines to aid handicapped voters.

Thirty-four counties, including Cabell and Wayne, use the iVotronic voting system.

Cole said she had no problems with the machines before the printers were added.

"We had more problems this year than in the past," Cole said. "The more you add onto the voting system the bigger the chance you have for having problems."

Cole said Cabell County had about six paper jams during the primary.

Both clerks said they plan to address another problem before the November general election touch screen malfunctions. Several voters in Cabell and Wayne counties had difficulty ing the correct candidate they were voting for on the touch screen. Cole said if voters did not touch the center of the box, the candidate would not be ed.

To remedy the situation, Pasley said he plans to purchase stylus devices to use on the touch screens. Cole said she plans to have her staff recalibrate the touch screens after they've been initially calibrated in preparation of the election. Before the election, county clerks' staffs put the machines through a number of tests to ensure the integrity of the machine is intact.

However, Cole said, touch screen calibrations can be jarred when the machines are transported to polling places.

Recalibration of the screens on election day, Cole said, would ensure the choices the voters made are the correct ones. But because voters are forced to review their ballots before officially submitting them, Pasley said it is the voter's responsibility to correct any mistakes made during the voting process.

"You cannot vote for the wrong person in this voting system," Pasley said, "unless you don't review your ballot or you are not paying attention."

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