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Berkeley officials: Minimal voting problems (WV)
Three residents file complaints over machines
The Journal. October 24, 2008. By Jenni Vincent, Journal Staff Writer

MARTINSBURG - Approximately 3,700 voters have cast early votes in Berkeley County, with less than a half dozen individuals reporting problems with the county's voting machines, Berkeley officials said Thursday.

But those words did little to comfort Martinsburg resident Lyle Peterson, who said he had problems last week trying to cast his vote for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.

"I kept trying to vote for Obama, pushed him for my selection but it would come up for John McCain. It took three times before it came up right," Peterson said Thursday.

Peterson said he doesn't believe the problem was due to human error.

"I took my time and distinctly touched it, so I know it wasn't because of something I was doing wrong," he said.

Deputy County Clerk Bonnie Woodfall said she had also spoken with Peterson on Thursday about his experience, but she stressed that his experience is far from typical. She said there have only been about three local complaints involving voting machines.

Commenting specifically on Peterson's situation was more difficult because it happened last week, Woodfall said. But she did have some advice for other voters.

"If anyone else does have any type of problem, they should notify one of our workers immediately because we want things to go well. This will not invalidate their ballot or upset us. Just let us know so we can see what's going on," she said.

Woodfall said she believes human error is a more likely culprit and that voters are not touching the screens as exactly as needed. For example, long fingernails could mean that a voter might accidentally touch another part of the screen while voting, she said.

Pencils will be available at the polls so that voters can use the eraser ends to touch the screens to vote, Woodfall said.

The county's Ivotronic Touch Screen voting machines have been in use since 2006, she added.

County Clerk John Small, who is looking for an overall voter turnout of as high as 70 percent for the Nov. 4 general election, said he is pleased with the overall process but has also taken some actions to improve the voting experience.

"If the numbers turn out as high as I'm expecting, this could be historic for Berkeley County," Small said.

No items containing campaign material, including clothing and newspapers, are allowed in the polling places, Small said, adding that voters seem to be aware of this exclusion.

Only a couple of folks have been asked to turn articles of clothing inside out - to conceal political endorsements, he said. Cloth aprons are also available and can be worn over the clothing if an individual prefers, he said.

Sample ballots are permissible and voters can bring them along. Newspapers are not allowed because they contain political ads, he said.

He has also instituted a formal complaint sheet, one that voters can use as they exit the courthouse polling place.

"It's just another way of trying to make the voting experience the best it can be," Small said.

During Thursday morning's meeting, County Commissioner Bill Stubblefield said that his wife was one of those who reportedly had a problem with a voting machine.

"She just kept pounding on it 'til it came up to where she thought it ought to be," he said, adding that her situation had not involved a presidential candidate.

There are seven days left of early voting, which takes place at the county courthouse. That includes Saturday, with hours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

- Staff writer Jenni Vincent can be reached at (304) 263-3381, ext. 138, or jvincent@journal-news.net


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