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Clerk says to double-check electronic ballots   (TX)

John Lowman    The Facts    26 October 2008

When Shelle Gaul checked her ballot after voting straight party, she noticed the person checked for president was not her choice.

Still using the electronic ballot, the Angleton resident scrolled back to the top of the ticket and corrected the error while voting at the Angleton location this week.

“I noticed the part for president was changed from straight party, so I went back and changed it,” Gaul said. “I was glad I did catch it. I just wondered how many more people have done the same thing.”

While Gaul’s trouble is not very common in Brazoria County, it does bring up a question, County Clerk Joyce Hudman said.

A widely circulated e-mail message telling people to vote straight party, and vote again for their choice for president should be ignored, Hudman said. The e-mail message states if people vote a straight-party ticket, they also must mark the box for a presidential candidate separately.

In electronic voting machines, that would remove the mark from beside the voter’s presidential choice, she said. The same works with any choice.

“We had someone in West Pearland say when they voted straight party, the president was not ed,” Hudman said. “If you vote for a candidate after already voting, it will de- their name.

“The best thing to do is look at your summary page and make sure there’s a red mark beside your candidate,” she said. “Review your summary page before you cast your ballot.”

And be careful when scrolling down a ballot, she said. The “Enter” button is close to the scroll button, so it’s better to review a whole page instead of scrolling. The review page will either have a candidate’s name, or it will say “no ion” if a box isn’t marked.

Although there have been a smattering of questions countywide, there are no wholesale problems, she said.

Before early voting began, Hudman and county officials ran about 3,000 test ballots, voting in all possible ways to check for mistakes, and the results were clean, she said.

Exact machines used for testing are not used during the election.

A week into early voting, if there were discrepancies, they would have been evident by now, Hudman said.

“We would have known it the first day of early voting,” she said. “We would have been getting phone calls all day.”

Brazoria County Elections Director Janice Evans expressed confidence in the county’s voting process. Logic and Accuracy tests designed to put the machines through their paces went well, suggesting voting equipment is well-calibrated and working properly, she said. But voters always should double-check their ballots before casting, Evans said.

“We’ve not had anybody tell us that’s happened, and in the testing of the machines, we had no problems,” Evans said.

Linda Starkenberg was among Republican Party representatives present during testing this month, and she noticed no problems.

“It went great,” Starkenberg said. “We voted 3,000 times and never once did it do anything like that. Every way the ballot could be voted, we voted it on that day.”

County Democratic Party Chair Susan Funkhouser also was at the testing and noticed no problems with machines.

“Everything we tested worked well,” Funkhouser said.

“I feel pretty comfortable with the machines. I wouldn’t tell a voter there wasn’t an error. There’s always the possibility there could be a glitch in a machine.”

Gaul urges all voters to pay attention while casting their ballots.

“If you’re going to vote a straight party ticket, when you get to the end, make sure the president isn’t switched off,” she said. “Just watch what you’re doing and look it over.”

Early voting continues through Oct. 31.

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