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Computer system caused voting delays in Nebraska
Omaha World-Herald. October 7, 2008 by Tom Shaw

A problem with Nebraska's voter registration computer system Monday caused voting delays over the lunch hour at election offices across the state.

In Douglas County, the problem meant that it took longer for people to cast early ballots at the election office near 114th and Davenport Streets.

"Everything was really slow everywhere," Douglas County Election Commissioner Dave Phipps said. "It was taking us a long time to do every function."

Truck driver Tom Barrett stopped by the office late Monday morning to vote. He said he waited in line for more than an hour because the computer system was running at a snail's pace.

Barrett, who eventually was able to cast his ballot, said he was voting early because he will be out of town Nov. 4, Election Day.

"If it's this slow today, people aren't going to be able to vote (closer to the election)," he said. "This is just pathetic."

County workers use the state system to verify that someone who wants to vote early is properly registered and to determine which ballot to give the voter.

Deputy Secretary of State Neal Erickson said the state system started running slowly about 10:30 a.m. Monday.

After no one could figure out what the problem was, technicians rebooted the system at 12:15 p.m. That seemed to solve the problem after about half an hour.

The problem hadn't been diagnosed yet, Erickson said. "I hope it doesn't happen again."

Lancaster County Election Commissioner Dave Shively said five or six residents were given the option of having ballots mailed to them if they didn't want to wait for the system to reboot. State law allows people to vote early in person or through the mail.

"It's really not causing us grave concern," Shively said.

In Sarpy County, the computer delays didn't cause voter problems but did slow down staff work, Election Commissioner Kay Forslund said. She called the problem "an inconvenience."

States are required to have centralized voter registration files because of changes mandated after the chaotic 2000 presidential election. County election offices in Nebraska have to access the centralized system to check a voter's status.

Before Nebraska's centralized system was started in 2005, counties kept their own voter registration files.

Erickson said the system might have run slowly before, but it might have been less noticeable because the slowdown didn't happen before a major election.

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