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County election officials assert that votes have been correctly tabulated (SC)
Island Packet. October 22, 2008. by MICHAEL WELLES SHAPIRO

County Elections and Voter Registration director Agnes Garvin said the county machines were working properly and counting residents' votes as they should.

"We're already hearing that there's problems with the machines ... which is just not so," said Garvin. "The machines are performing as they're supposed to perform."

She attributed questions about the machines to a software limitation that affects the screen voters use to review their choices before actually casting their ballot.

In most races, voters pick a single candidate John McCain or Barack Obama, for example and that candidate's name shows up on the final review screen.

However, in the races for Bluffton Town and Beaufort City councils, voters may choose up to two candidates. In those cases, the machine shows voters only that they've picked the correct number of candidates without showing those candidates' names, according to Eric Montgomery, a county election equipment specialist.

Montgomery said he tested the machines over the weekend and confirmed votes were being tallied correctly.

Garvin said she also has instructed polling place managers to explain the review screen's function to voters.

That explanation didn't satisfy Bluffton's Nancy Roe, who, with her husband Bill, attempted to vote absentee ballot by machine on Hilton Head on Friday. The couple ultimately cast paper ballots.

"I just can't feel comfortable when the screen comes up and doesn't show who you're voting for," she said Wednesday.

Montgomery said the county will ask the company that provides its voting machine software if the machines can be programmed to show candidate names for multi-seat races on the review screen in elections beyond the Nov. 4 contest.

"I think it's something we'll solve," he said.


Garvin also said problems involving a number of mail-in absentee ballots sent out without proper instructions has been resolved. Elections workers were slow to proofread the paper ballots, she said, meaning some of the ballots were sent out without instructions on how many candidates voters could vote for in multi-seat races.

Garvin estimated Monday her office had mailed 79 of these problematic ballots, with 36 going to Beaufort voters, 10 to Bluffton voters, 32 to Hilton Head voters and one to a Fripp Island voter.

But on Wednesday, she said only sixballots without the instructions had reached voters in Bluffton and Beaufort. She said her initial figure mistakenly included ballots that in fact had the instructions.

She said her office is still trying to determine how many Hilton Head voters may have received ballots with missing information.

Garvin said her office has contacted all six of the Bluffton and Beaufort voters to ensure they fill out the ballots correctly.


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