Thursday, August 5, 2010

Electronic Glitch Jeopardizes Completion of Countywide Voting

Posted By on Thu, Aug 5, 2010 at 11:58 AM

Candidates Cohen, Newman, and Wade confer on voting-machine glitch
  • JB
  • Candidates Cohen, Newman, and Wade confer on voting-machine glitch
A glitch in electronic voting — apparently arising from the fact that early-voting records from a previous election were mistakenly loaded into the Election Commission’s electronic roll — has prevented or delayed sizeable numbers of Shelby County voters from casting ballots in today’s election and may provide the basis for litigation of the results.
Voters at numerous precincts found themselves turned away at their designation polling locations on the grounds that they had already voted.

Some — like Geraldine Wade, who appeared at a Thursday morning press conference of Democratic candidates and officials — were able to secure a ballot after applying for provisional paper ballots, and after their voting records were checked against the Election Commission’s written records.

But such a process was time-consuming, and it was uncertain how many of the precinct officials were fully acquainted with such remedies.

Not only was it likely that numerous voters would not be able to complete the process of casting ballots, the specter existed that manual counting of provisional paper ballots would delay vote-counting well into late Thursday night or Friday morning. And another possibility was that the provisional paper ballots could run out, leaving large numbers of voters unable to vote at all.

The morning press conference was called at the headquarters of Randy Wade, the Democratic nominee for sheriff, and several other candidates attended. “It’s a computer world, and these machines haven’t worked,” said 9th District congressman Steve Cohen, who added that human programming errors could run the gamut from “criminal” to “negligent,” once the full circumstances were known.

In any case, the problem was countywide, and Wade indicated he thought the results of the countywide general election and the state and federal primary elections could be skewed to the degree that candidates could end up having to seek recourse in the courts.

Shep Wilburn, currently a candidate for election as Juvenile Court clerk and a former member of the Election Commission, said the problem possibly stemmed from defects in the Diebold voting machines used for the election and blamed state Republican election officials for stonewalling voting-machine reforms that were authorized by the 2008 General Assembly.

Upon conclusion of the Democrats' press conference, Trustee Regina Morrison Newman, one of the participants, went to vote at her precinct and reported that she, too, had "already voted." After completing a lengthy paperwork process, Newman was allowed to vote.

Neither Bill Giannini, Election Commission chair, nor Commission executive director Rich Holden were immediately available for comment.

A statement from Election Commission headquarters was released at mid-morning, however:
During the opening of polls at 7:00 a.m., it was discovered that voters who may have voted EARLY in the May primary but had not Early Voted for the Augbust election were recognized by EPB’s (Electronic Poll Books) as having already voting in this election. In all elections, each precincts is equipped with a printed document containing the names of each participating voters in early/Absentee Voting and that is used to cross-check a voter’s eligibility.

Any voter wh believes he or she is eligible may sign a Fail-Safe Affidavit and then vote in the same manner as any other voter.

While the number of potentially affected voters is very small, the SCEC regrets any inconvenience to any voters and is committed to ensuring that any and ALL eligible voters can participate.

Updates as they become available.

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