- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 3, 2004

The new touch-screen voting machines passed their first major test Tuesday without creating the major problems predicted by their critics, local election officials said.

Some precincts in Maryland, Virginia and the District reported a few glitches with the electronic equipment, but nothing that led voters to lose votes or cast results into doubt.

“What glitches we did have were almost always caused by people dealing with the new system,” said Linda H. Lamone, administrator for the Maryland State Board of Elections. “We need to continue training our poll workers and voters.”

In the months leading up to Tuesday’s presidential election, Mrs. Lamone faced intense scrutiny by critics who opposed the state’s use of the touch-screen machines because they don’t provide a paper record of votes. Takoma Park-based TrueVoteMD, warned the lack of paper ballots could trigger massive voter fraud.

Linda Schade, co-founder of TrueVoteMD, said the group received reports of at least 122 incidents of voting irregularities involving the new voting machines.

“Clearly I’m not aware of any electoral surprises in Maryland, but we definitely had lots of incidents that concern us,” she said. “We had reports of people saying, ‘I gave up because I couldn’t control my touch screen at all.’”

She also said voters at some precincts became so frustrated by the machines that they began banging their fists on the screens.

Others simply walked out of the polling places, she said.

Elections officials in Virginia and the District reported no major problems.

“Things went very smooth, and we’re very grateful for that,” said Bill O’Field, a spokesman for the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics.

In the primaries earlier this year, D.C. election officials had problems tallying results until well past midnight. But Tuesday’s final election results were available much earlier that night.

Mr. O’Field said the board recruited more volunteers to retrieve voting cartridges from precincts and take them to election headquarters in Northwest after the polls closed.

D.C. election officials encountered a few problems, such as long lines at many precincts early Tuesday. Also, poll workers at the New Image Community Baptist Church precinct in Ward 8 had trouble working a touch-screen voting machine, Mr. O’Field said.

But no votes were lost and election workers fixed the problem within a few hours, he said.

Voters in the District could cast their ballots on touch-screen machines or the older optical-scan manual ballots. Some voters said they had difficulty feeding their optical-scan ballots into the machines.

Mr. O’Field called it a routine glitch. “Any time you’re feeding paper, you’re sometimes going to have a jam,” he said. “It’s an easy thing to fix on the spot. We did have a few reports of that happening, but that’s routine.”

In Maryland, eight precincts in Baltimore County still hadn’t reported results as of yesterday morning because of problems with modems used to transmit results from precincts to the county election board.

County officials referred calls to Mrs. Lamone, who told the Associated Press she didn’t know the cause.

In Alexandria, poll workers improperly restarted a voting machine after problems were reported with its headphones.

“It was an innocent error and a short one in terms of stoppage,” said Tom Parkins, the city’s registrar of voters.

Other problems included the distribution of provisional ballots to voters at Capt. James E. Daly Jr. Elementary School in Germantown after touch-screen machines at that precinct did not show voters the ballot on the screen.

Marjorie Roher, administrative specialist for the Montgomery County Board of Elections, said the precinct received the wrong encoder cards that provide the machines the proper ballot information.

“Voters were still able to vote by provisional ballot,” she said. “Nobody was turned away.”

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