Some e-voting problems seen

About 30 percent of American voters used electronic voting machines in Tuesday's election. Some problems surfaced, despite what appeared to be a smooth operation.

TrueVoteMD, an organization urging state government to require a voter verified paper trail on its electronic voting machines, dispatched observers to about 100 Maryland polling places Tuesday, said co-founder Linda Schade. By mid-afternoon, she said that about 20 locations had reported problems. The organization also received about 200 calls to its hotline from individual voters, Schade added.

Some voters received incomplete ballots that were missing local races, and at least one voter encountered a machine that would not register a vote for Sen. Barbara Mikulski, Schade said. Other problems that were quickly resolved included machines that didn't boot up before the polls opened, or that froze while voters were in the midst of voting.

Poll workers at a location in Frederick, Md., seemed poorly trained, said Maxine Rheingold, a TrueVoteMD volunteer. They did not know how to tell voters to submit a write-in candidate, she said.

Poll workers should insert a smart card into a device that wipes the votes of a previous voter and encodes the card for the next voter. Some poll workers were not wiping the previous information consistently, she said. The machine, made by Diebold Election Systems, would then reject the smart card and force the voter to find a poll worker to clear it.

There also were no ballots offered in Spanish, with a "growing minority" of Spanish-speaking voters in Frederick County, Rheingold added.

Frederick County officials could not be reached for comment.

Harris Miller, president of the Information Technology Association of America, which supports electronic voting, called the election a success for the technology.

"Over 40 million Americans cast their votes yesterday using approximately 175,000 electronic voting machines," Miller said, in a statement. "This voting took place efficiently and effectively across a wide range of people, places and local election processes and practices -- with a minimum of disruptions."

In New Mexico, during early voting, voters saw electronic machines switch their votes for president, from Kerry to Bush and from Bush to Kerry. The voters who noticed the error were able to correct it before casting their ballots, according to the Albuquerque Journal. Election officials attributed the changes to user error, saying the voters might have rested their hands on the screen, accidentally marking the electronic ballot for the wrong candidate.

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