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More voting problems reported (WV)
Martinsburg man says machine switched Democratic vote to Republican 5 times
Charleston Gazette. October 23, 2008. By Paul J. Nyden, Staff writer

Roger Belozier, a veteran and retired postal worker from Berkeley County, experienced problems with electronic voting machines when he went to vote early in the Martinsburg courthouse.

"I reviewed my vote to make sure it was a straight Democratic ticket. But it switched my vote to Republican candidates five different times. I was able to cancel out the Republican votes.

"But I am scratching my head. Why did the machine switch my votes five different times? I asked someone to come over and explain it to me," Belozier said on Wednesday.

"I am concerned about a lot of people who might not notice or people who might be intimidated. They have to raise their hands and ask for some help."

Tracy Lopez had the same problem when she went to vote in Martinsburg with her husband last week, according to a message she posted on a political Web site supporting Obama.

"When I pressed 'Barack Obama,' it checked off 'John McCain,' " Lopez wrote. "I de-ed, and instead of taking any chances, I chose straight Democratic ticket rather than go through the whole thing and have any mistakes."

Lopez, who declined to be interviewed personally, thought, "Maybe I had just been clumsy. But my husband confirmed that he had the same exact thing happen to him. He was on a different voting machine, voting at the same time I was."

Some political leaders hope the controversy over voting machines does not discourage people from voting early or voting on Election Day.

Tom Vogel, director of the West Virginia Obama campaign, said, "We want people to go vote. We want them to feel confident and we want them to vote early. If any voter has any problems while voting, we want them to remain calm.

"Ask a poll worker for assistance," Vogel said. "Voters can switch to another machine if the one they are on has a calibration problem. And make sure to review your choices before you leave."

Secretary of State Betty Ireland held a press conference on Wednesday to "discuss recent reports of purported problems regarding touch- screen voting machines."

Ireland vigorously defended iVotronic voting machines made by Election Systems & Software from Omaha, Neb.

After some individuals reported voting problems, Ireland contacted county clerks and "advised them to examine their machines" and to recalibrate them if necessary.

Ireland advises voters who believe they have problems to ask polling clerks for help.

"I do not believe the machines are faulty," Ireland said. "I am very confident in the security of the machines....

"I call on everyone - Republicans, Democrats, Mountain Party members and Independents alike - and the media to work together to help make this election a successful process."

Kent Carper, president of the Kanawha County Commission, sent Ireland a letter on Wednesday that stated, "Kanawha County does not have a local contact number for the technician that has been reportedly assigned to Kanawha County....

"Voter confidence is paramount to this or any election," Carper wrote, "and knowing we can ... quickly contact our ES&S technician would go a long way toward maintaining that goal."

Voting machine companies - ES&S, Premier Election Systems (Diebold), Sequoia Voting Systems and Hart InterCivic - have recently faced widespread public criticism for voting problems in many states, including Ohio, California, Florida and New Jersey.

Ellen Theisen, co-director of VotersUnite.Org, recently published an analysis titled, "Vendors are Undermining the Structure of U.S. Elections."

"Our dependence on vendor support has left our election structure vulnerable to corporate decisions that are not in the public interest, corporate profiteering and claims of trade-secrecy for information that is essential to public oversight of elections," Theisen wrote.

"Vendors are not held legally accountable when these goods or services fail."

Asked about such widespread criticism, Ireland reiterated her strong support of ES&S.

Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or 348-5164.

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