E-voting problems across U.S., reports say

Watchdog groups are being swamped with reports of problems with electronic voting machines across the U.S., including votes being incorrectly recorded Tuesday.

Common Cause, a government watchdog group, received more than 14,000 calls to its voter hotline as of about 4 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, including hundreds of reports of “vote-flipping,” where the machine’s summary screen shows different results than the voter wanted. The Common Cause hotline includes all kinds of voting problems, not just those with e-voting.

E-voting watchdogs saw significant problems with vote-flipping in the 2004 national election, and Verified Voting called for a national investigation then but was rebuffed, said David Dill, founder of Verified Voting and a computer science professor at Stanford University.

“Not surprisingly, we are experiencing the same problems,” Dill said during a press briefing. “This kind of problem, I think it’s a national disgrace.”

Still, Common Cause officials said as of Tuesday afternoon, they were seeing fewer voting problems than they did in 2004. However, reports of e-voting problems could take days to surface, Dill said.

By 8 p.m. EST, reports of e-voting problems had subsided.

In Denver, Colorado, voters encountered lines of more than two hours because of apparent problems with a voter registration database. Voters there could cast their ballots at any voting location, but the voter rolls were apparently contained on just one overloaded database, said Pete Naismith, with Common Cause in Colorado.

“It’s the classic situation where too many cars are jammed onto one highway,” he said.

The Colorado Secretary of State’s office said it is monitoring the problems in Denver and advised voters to get to the polls early. The state Democratic party has asked a court to order that polls stay open an extra two hours because of the delays, but a judge denied the request.

The election commissioner in Johnson County, Kansas, dismissed sketchy reports that poll workers there were using hand lotion to keep voter cards from spitting out of machines. However, reports to that effect had it backwards, according to Election Commissioner Brian Newby. When a poll worker has used too much hand lotion, voter cards can get stuck in the machine that recodes them, but a simple reboot fixes the problem, he said.

“I’m amazed,” he said of the reports regarding hand lotion. “It’s urban legend.”

Among the other problems reported as of 5 p.m. EST, according to Common Cause, the Election Protection 365 Web site and the Association for Computing Machinery:

— In Ohio, 43 of Cuyahoga County’s 573 voting places opened late or couldn’t get some or all of their voting machines to work, Election Protection 365 reported. A judge ordered 16 polling places to stay open an extra 90 minutes, until 9 p.m., in the Cleveland area.

— In one Indiana county, e-voting machines didn’t turn on. In a second county, the machine activation cards weren’t programmed properly.

— More than 2,000 calls to Common Cause’s voter hotline came from Pennsylvania. There were reports in three counties of e-voting glitches, the group said.

— Election Protection 365 workers asked for extended voting hours because of numerous reports of machine failures and poll workers who were unable to operate voting machines. The county uses a combination of optical scan and e-voting machines, according to Verified Voting.

— There were reports of voting machine failures in parts of Florida and Utah.

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