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Officials: New voting system runs smoothly
Most problems with touchscreen equipment attributed to human error
By Jeff Parrott, Journal and Courier
Tippecanoe County's new touchscreen voting equipment drew mostly favorable reviews Tuesday, but there were a few glitches along the way.
Humans, rather than the machines, were largely to blame for problems at a handful of polling sites, said Linda Phillips, Republican co-director of the county Board of Elections and Registration.
For instance, an unoccupied unit's screen suddenly went blank a few hours into voting at Wabash Township Precinct 12, in the Upper Room Christian Fellowship in West Lafayette. Poll inspector Lee Schrader soon realized that he had successfully plugged the machines into a control strip, and he had plugged that into the wall, but he had failed to turn the strip on.
The units had run on their batteries for the first few hours.
Schrader said no votes were lost, an assurance echoed by Carrie Smith, inspector at Wabash 2, in the White Horse Christian Center. There, voter Sandy Daniel, wife of circuit court judge candidate Don Daniel, left without knowing whether her vote had been counted.
Daniel got an "error message" on the screen after trying to vote, something a service technician later attributed to an unknown "hardware problem," Smith said. Smith and Republican precinct judge Steve Needham counted the votes recorded by the machines, and when that number matched the number of people who had signed up to vote there, Smith called Daniel on her cell phone, about an hour after she left, to say her vote had indeed been counted.
The machine, one of four at the site, was shut down for the rest of the day. One of six machines at the Westminster Village retirement community polling site also was down by 10 a.m.
"They just said it wasn't working right," said poll inspector John Anderson, who wondered whether the electrical connection was faulty.
In no case did the breakdowns cause voters to wait in lines, poll workers said.
One voter at Westminster Village, however, was angry that he had failed to vote for his preferred congressional candidate in the 4th Congressional District race. After seeing his choice displayed on the final review screen, he could have pressed "previous" to scroll back to the page containing that race, and changed his vote. Instead, he pressed the "vote" button and his memory card popped out, ending his voting.
"I ended up voting for someone I didn't want to," the man, who refused to give his name, said bitterly. "In this computer age, let the idiots use their computers and let intelligent people do it the right way. If you think this is any better than Florida with their chads, you're wrong."
Still, an overwhelming majority of voters interviewed after casting their ballots said they liked the touch-screen units, purchased by the county for $1.1 million to replace punchcard ballots.
"Boy, they're great," said Karl Leffler, 78. "They should have had that at the last presidential election. There wouldn't have been any of those chads. As long as you can read, it's pretty simple."
"I liked it very much," said Nola Kashner, who was the Republican voter registration head from 1975-83. "It was very efficient and very fast."
As far as the new equipment goes, Phillips said the only thing she will do differently in the Nov. 5 general election is stress to poll workers the need to plug the machines in.
"In general, I think it really went quite well," she said.
Cards left behind cause a slight delay in results
Final results of Tuesday's primary election in Tippecanoe County might have been in by 8 p.m. instead of 9 p.m. if it hadn't been for some confusion at one precinct.
Nora Jarmon, co-director of the election and registration office, said workers at the Fairfield Precinct 16 voting place at Washington Elementary School left memory cards containing ballot data in the voting devices when they closed the polling place.
All of the county's new touchscreen voting devices were to be left at the polling places to be picked up today. But memory tapes and memory cards from the devices were to be placed in sealed envelopes and brought to the County Office Building on Tuesday night for tallying.
Workers at Fairfield 16 brought in the memory tapes, but not the memory cards. So election board members had to track down the poll workers and have them return to Washington School to retrieve the memory cards after 8:30 p.m.
Election workers were accompanied by a sheriff's deputy, and Lafayette School Corp. superintendent Ed Eiler went to Washington to have the school unlocked.
Jarmon said there was a technical problem closing the polls at one other location, Fairfield Precinct 31 at Cornerstone Baptist Church, that also caused some delay.
-- Joe Gerrety/Journal and Courier
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