Human -- Not E-Voting Machine -- Errors Reported In New Jersey - InformationWeek

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2/6/2008
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Human -- Not E-Voting Machine -- Errors Reported In New Jersey

Slight delays were reported at the polling place where Gov. Jon Corzine voted Tuesday.

Sequoia Voting Systems machines in New Jersey worked fine Tuesday, but human error caused a few problems, according to the company and election officials.

Hudson County Board of Election clerk Michael Harper said in an interview Wednesday that human error caused minor delays on two machines Tuesday. One of the machines was in New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine's district.

Corzine showed up at the polls early in the morning on primary day. Local media reported that he had to wait an hour to vote because of problems with the machines. Harper and Sequoia representatives said that's not true.

"There was no equipment problem that caused a delay," Michelle M. Shafer, VP of communications and external affairs for Sequoia Voting Systems, said in a statement e-mailed to InformationWeek.

Sequoia said that poll workers accidentally turned machines off, but Harper said it was a bit more complicated than that. Still, no voters were disenfranchised and Corzine did not have to wait more than a few minutes, he said.

"I, as a voter and election official, have 150% faith in these machines," he said.

In Corzine's district, a poll worker hit the green button to fire up the machine in the morning but failed to select a party first. During primaries, poll workers must choose a party before activating machines so the machines can select and display choices for the party.

"The machine doesn't know whether to allow you to vote a Republican ballot or a Democratic ballot, so the machine freezes," Harper said.

The poll worker continued pressing the "activate" button but it wouldn't light up. Around 6:07 a.m., the poll worker called a technician, who figured out what went wrong and started explaining how to fix it, Harper said.

"In middle of that, the governor's protection unit comes in with a gaggle of reporters," Harper said. "The poll worker is on the phone with the technicians, trying to get the machine up."

Reporters raced outside to report on the fact that the governor would not go in. In reality, the problem was corrected in minutes. Once Corzine was informed, he went into the polling station and emerged in about two minutes, at 6:35 a.m.

At the same firehouse, another poll worker struggled with a machine for a second district. The poll worker accidentally shut a machine off about 20 minutes after the polls opened, Harper said. For the voting machine, that signaled the end of the election, which triggers a printout of results and requires rebooting. Technicians cannot do that over the phone, so workers sent another machine to the polling place, Harper said.

Workers pulled out provisional ballots and obtained permission to use emergency ballots until the replacement machine arrived.

"There were a total of 24," Harper said. "They were counted like regular ballots. At no point, where there were machine problems caused by human error, was anyone disenfranchised. No one was turned away and told they can't vote."

Harper said the delay for Corzine's machine lasted about 15 minutes. In the second of the two districts, where someone accidentally powered down the machine, the delay lasted about 25 minutes, he said.

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