Tuesday, March 07, 2006

New voting system, same problems (Galveston)

This is the first article that there were problems with e-voting systems in the Texas primary:

By TJ Aulds
The Daily News

Published March 8, 2006
Galveston County’s elections were to have moved into the computer age Tuesday with the party primaries.

But despite a new electronic voting system and new software for voter registration, problems long a part of the county’s election night history cropped up again.

Thousands of voters never received registration cards. It was a problem that had the phones at the county courthouse ringing with calls from frustrated voters across the county.

It’s been a nightmare, it really has,” said County Tax Assessor-Collector Cheryl Johnson, who is also the county’s voter registrar.

Johnson blamed the problem on a glitch with new software that was required under state law. The cards printed fine, but postal service scanning machines had trouble reading many of the addresses, she said.

I’d say it’s easily 10,000 that came back, probably closer to 20,000,” Johnson said as she pointed at boxes full voter registration cards with bright yellow postal stickers indicating addresses were not valid.

You always get some that come back because of a problem with the address, but with many of these we found there aren’t any problems with the addresses,” Johnson said. In many cases, she said, the glitch caused letters to be mailed to people stating they needed to update their addresses with the county, when they had never moved.

Problems retrieving data from the new eSlate system delayed the release of election results. The first returns, which included the results of the 5,700 early votes, did not emerge until 9:20 p.m. — two and half hours after the polls had closed.

County Clerk Mary Ann Daigle said it was mostly human error that caused the delays. The ballot board, a group of elected judges who go through mail-in ballots by hand, was delayed because of a late mail run, she said.

Poll workers at two locations, one in Texas City and the other in Galveston, also failed to bring all of the required equipment to the courthouse for counting, she said.

Daigle said problems existed at at least two polling locations where the eSlate and eScan systems used in the election malfunction more than once. The systems shut down at the Municipal Utility District No. 12 in Bayou Vista and at Weis Middle School, forcing those wanting to cast ballots to do so using emergency ballots. Daigle said those equipment malfunctions though did not have anything to do with the delays.

Johnson promised an investigation into the irregularities with the voter registration.

That was little comfort to Sharon Tipton, who moved from Galveston to Santa Fe in November. She was one of those who never received a registration card; her husband received his.

In January, I checked on it and was told I had to complete the change form again, even though my husband’s information had been sent in the same envelope as mine originally,” said Tipton. “I went to the west county (annex) and completed the form again.

Still no card arrived.

I didn’t even bother to go and vote,” said Tipton, who could have still voted had she provided a driver’s license or other form of identification.

Even then, a provisional ballot could have been filed until her correct address information could be verified, Johnson said.

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