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Programming glitch affects ballots statewide   (WV)

Rusty Marks    The Charleston Gazette   14 October 2008

CHARLESTON, W.Va. A programming glitch is forcing election officials in Kanawha and 18 other counties to retest their optical scanning voting machines on the eve of the general election.

Early voting begins Wednesday for the 2008 election. But Kanawha County Clerk Vera McCormick said a programming error in the state's automated voting machines could have resulted in incorrect results for at least one state race.

According to McCormick, voters who voted a straight Republican ticket but then decided to vote for only one Democrat in the state Supreme Court race would have had their votes incorrectly counted. Two Democrats and one Republican are vying for two open seats on the court.

A voter voting a straight Republican ticket who wanted to vote for both Democrats would have had their vote counted correctly, but someone who wanted to vote for only a single Democrat and no Republican would have votes recorded for both candidates, McCormick said.

Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper said a clerk in Hampshire County discovered the error late last week and informed the secretary of state's office. State election officials contacted the vendor who did the programming for the voting machines to correct the mistake.

Kanawha and the other 18 counties that use optical scanners for early voting got new memory cards just in time for the start of early voting, which begins Wednesday. Kanawha County election officials called an emergency meeting to retest their voting machines with the new cards this morning.

Carper said the mistake was made by the vendor, Election Systems & Software in Nebraska. State and county election officials have repeatedly had problems with ES&S missing deadlines and making mistakes on voting materials.

Kanawha County received new memory cards for only 16 voting machines that will be used for early voting. ES&S is supposed to supply new cards for the county's other 164 voting machines before Election Day.

Carper is unhappy with the voting glitch. "The problem is this is the day before the election starts," he said. "This does not instill confidence in the voting system.

"I think it's time for the Secretary of State to put the vendor they ed on a short leash."

McCormick said the mistake has been fixed and that voters should not worry about having their ballots miscounted. "They shouldn't get discouraged," she said. "That's why we're testing."

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