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E-voting glitches hamper elections in seven states

Hanging Chad, make room for Folded Crease

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USA '08 People in at least seven states - six of them considered battleground states - are reporting that bugs and malfunctions with electronic voting machines are hampering their ability to cast votes in a presidential election that is expected to bring out a record number of voters.

In Florida, a state that is no stranger to controversial election results, the problem was with optical scan machines, which, coincidentally, many e-voting skeptics have said are less prone to error than other ballot machine types. In the sunshine state's Palm Beach County, elections officials have said that creases in absentee ballots are causing some votes to be misread by machines made by Sequoia Voting Systems. It seems that in some cases, the crease can be misinterpreted as a black arrow that's supposed to indicate a voter's choice.

The discovery has prompted one candidate whose race is printed on the part of the ballot that's folded to request absentee ballots to be hand counted. So far officials have rejected the call.

Voters also reported problems with optical scanning in Colorado. They stem from dust that collects in the creases of mail-in ballots that could lead to inaccuracies.

Virginia, another swing state that could ultimately decide whether Democrat Barack Obama or Republican John McCain wins the White House, also experienced problems with e-voting machines Tuesday. Voting at more than two-dozen polling places in that state came to a standstill caused largely by machine failures and a lack of paper ballots. In Henrico County, many people showing up to polls had to wait hours to cast their ballot after five of seven voting machines broke down, according to a group called the Election Protection Coalition. No paper ballots were available during the outage.

Henrico County officials disputed the reports of long lines.

The reports are just the latest to cast e-voting as unreliable and fraught with risk to tampering. In August 2007, California Secretary of State imposed strict limitations on the use of e-voting machines from all four companies doing business in the state. Ohio's top elections official has also reported finding serious vulnerabilities in machines used in that state.

Tuesday's problems also extended to states that are not considered swing states.

In Kentucky's Kenton County 108 eSlate machines sold by Hart Intercivic had to be taken out of service two hours after polls opened. The problem, according to the Associated Press: "The machines weren't lighting up when someone voted a straight-party ticket of all Democrats or Republicans. The machines' removal meant longer waits for some voters."

And in Illinois, where polls indicate Obama is likely to win easily, people also reported problems, according to the group Verified Voting. Other states reporting problems included New Jersey and Pennsylvania. ®

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