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[October 23, 2010]
Voter reports problem with ballot machine
Oct 23, 2010 (Sun Journal - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- A Craven County voter says he had a near miss at the polls on Thursday when an electronic voting machine completed his straight-party ticket for the opposite of what he intended.
Sam Laughinghouse of New Bern said he pushed the button to vote Republican in all races, but the voting machine screen displayed a ballot with all Democrats checked. He cleared the screen and tried again with the same result, he said. Then he asked for and received help from election staff.
"They pushed it twice and the same thing happened," Laughinghouse said. "That was four times in a row. The fifth time they pushed it and the Republicans came up and I voted." M. Ray Wood, Craven County Board of elections chairman, issued a written statement saying that the elections board is aware of isolated issues and that in each case the voter was able to cast his or her ballot as desired.
Chuck Tyson, chairman of Craven County GOP, remains skeptical. He has been communicating with Wood about the issue and was invited to a meeting Wednesday with state elections officials. There were no further details about that meeting.
"Something is not right here," Tyson told the Sun Journal. He said he "got two or three calls" from people describing the same problem while they were voting.
"I'll be matter of fact, I didn't find that press release satisfactory," Tyson said, referring to Wood's written statement.
Tyson reported other problems as well, including long lines waiting for just two voting machines in Havelock, and machines reporting 250 ballots cast where 400 voters had signed in to vote.
Laughinghouse cast his ballot at the county administration building at about 2:30 p.m., he said. After voting, he located a Republican worker on site and asked to speak with her about his voting machine issue. A man interrupted, he said, directing Laughinghouse to talk with him instead. That man said the machine likely needed to be calibrated, Laughinghouse said, and set about the method to do so.
"Each morning every voting unit is calibrated as per manufacturer instructions by trained election rovers," Wood's statement said. "These individuals are also working throughout the county each day to assist one-stop officials with any issues that arise during the course of voting." Laughinghouse advises voters to carefully check their ballots before confirming to ensure that the machine is logging each vote as intended.
"If you're in a hurry, you may just push the button and not notice it," he said.
He has become suspicious of voter fraud because of news reports he has heard. He would prefer voting machines to display an error message when they need to be calibrated, as opposed to completing ballots for the opposite party, he said.
"I'm all for our country and we know there has been voter fraud before and it continues even today," Laughinghouse said. "So you get suspicious when something like this happens." The elections board also encourages voters to check their ballots carefully and to report any problems to poll staff before confirming the electronic ballot.
"It is our desire to provide the citizens of Craven County with the most honest and fair election possible," Wood's statement said. "With that in mind and because we seek to maintain the privacy of all voters whenever possible, we ask any voter, while in the act of voting, notify an election official immediately should they experience any difficulties in casting their ballot." Wood was unavailable to expand on his written comments on Friday afternoon, as he was in a conference, an elections office employee said. He did not return a phone message seeking additional comment as of press time.
Tyson said he'd like it if Craven County would scrap its voting machines.
"They never work, they're late reporting, they screw up, they ain't worth a damn and we ought to go back to paper ballots," he said.
P. Christine Smith can be reached at 252-635-5666 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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