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Machines didn't work on election day

PENN YAN—This year’s local election is over and Yates County’s two election commissioners took time to reflect on the challenges of using new voting machines this year. Machines in Himrod, Torrey and Potter 1 and 2 stopped working, resulting in each ballot being counted by hand.
Despite the glitches, Republican election commissioner Amy Daines said there were no problems called back in moving people through the polling sites.
Democratic election commissioner Robert Brechko said there was a “glitch” in the software in processing the data. It caused the machine to freeze. There were about 230 ballots cast in Himrod and 300 plus in Torrey. Although it caused some havoc, Daines said, “But still things went well.” Brechko said they had planned to do a hand count if it was needed, and it was. Teams from the board of elections office went to the polling sites that had problems to assist in counting the ballots. Daines said it helped that the board of elections office could send “fresh” eyes to assist in counting ballots. The team that went to Potter to help had the machine technician with them. Even if he had been able to restart the machines, there was a procedure the state requires that couldn’t be done.
Asked when she finished, Daines laughed and said, “I left at 1:38 a.m. I thought it would be 3 a.m.” Her day began almost 20 hours earlier. She said, “When I walked in the office at 6:30 in the morning there was a note on the door asking us to come downstairs to Milo 1 and 2 because they couldn’t get the machine to ‘fire up.’”
Yates County was part of a pilot project for the new machines. Thirty-nine of the state’s 62 counties participated in the project. Ideally the machine would check ballots for over votes. Write-ins were also a problem. Some people wrote outside of the box provided and others wrote the name vertically rather than horizontally.
The new machines came with a cost. Federal funding was provided through the Help America Vote Act and Yates County paid approximately $37,000. This included software and other materials necessary to program the machines. Another cost associated with the new system is for the ballots which must be printed for 110 percent of the number of eligible voters. The cost of each one is 57 cents. This seems to be a high cost for a piece of paper; however, the ballots are an unusual size and must be printed on heavyweight paper. They are then bound and perforated with each carrying a stub that must be accounted for.
Brechko said, “We’ll get all the bugs out locally before the gubernatorial election next year.” One of the tools they have to get rid of bugs is an extensive chart Daines developed that quickly and easily answers nearly any question that could surface at polling sites. The chart was used as a backdrop of all training this year and got rave reviews from the trainees.
The electronic voting machines are new and more changes could be in the distant future, particularly in encouraging more people to vote. Brechko said the state of Oregon shifted to voting by mail and has had up to 80 percent of eligible voters casting ballots in the new system. This year’s work isn’t finished yet. Absentee ballots will be arriving and added to the totals before the 2009 local election is wrapped up.
Daines said, “We really need to commend our inspectors. By golly, they stepped up to the plate and performed superbly.”

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