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Duplicate voter database caused error   (GA)

TIM CHITWOOD AND CHUCK WILLIAMS    Columbus Ledger-Enquirer  02 December 2008

Columbus election workers Tuesday morning were able through “constant trouble-shooting” to get past a voter database error that incorrectly showed some residents trying to cast ballots in Tuesday’s runoff already had voted.

“It was constant trouble-shooting all morning, until probably 8:30 or 9,” said Nancy Boren, the city’s elections director. The issue was discovered at precincts as early as 6 a.m., and the polls opened at 7.

The problem some voters encountered early Tuesday was the result of a database from the Nov. 4 election being duplicated for use in the runoff, Boren said. It showed people who voted early for the November election as having already voted in the runoff.

“At some point, the Nov. 4 election information was downloaded to a number of the flash cards,” Boren said.

The error did not show up in weekend tests for Tuesday’s election, Boren said. She added that the problem most likely was caused by a malfunctioning machine called a “duplicator.”

“It’s been a learning experience for everybody, me included,” she said.

No other unusual voting problems popped up after the matter was resolved, Boren said.

The equipment issue plagued about 10 of the city’s 48 precincts, where voters were told they already had cast their ballots.

Among the precincts affected were Spencer High School, Britt David, Cornerstone, St. Marys and St. Peters, Boren said. A voter reported the same problem at Wynnbrook.

In the general election, more than 38,000 people voted in advance. In the runoff, which included a critical U.S. Senate race between Republican incumbent Saxby Chambliss and Democratic challenger Jim Martin, about 10,600 voted in advance.

The problem would be evident when a voter showed up at a precinct and went to its express poll line to get a computer card that calls up the ballot when inserted in the voting machine. Some voters who did not vote in advance were told they had, because they had cast an early ballot for the Nov. 4 election.

In such instances, several stop-gap measures still allow people to vote, Boren said.

Voters may cast a provisional ballot, for example. Poll workers also were calling the main election office to determine whether someone had voted in advance.

Voting machines can be used to create voter-access cards. This procedure often is used in the main office during advance voting, but it rarely is employed in precincts on Election Day.

The problem first came up about 5 p.m. Monday, when poll workers at Gentian Elementary tested their equipment. Election officials were able to address the Gentian problem before the polls opened Tuesday at 7 a.m. A similar issue was discovered and fixed at St. Andrews about 6 a.m.

The problems caused delays, but with the light turnout, they were not lengthy, Boren said.

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