- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Problems with electronic voting machines delayed poll closings in several states and led to arrests in two states, while identification requirements caused some embarrassment to public officials in South Carolina and Missouri.

“It has been unusual,” said Lt. Col. Carl Yates of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office in Louisville, Ky., after a poll worker became frustrated with a machine counter and was arrested on suspicion of choking a voter and twice shoving him out of the polling place.

“Nothing can top this,” Stacy Sterner, elections chief for Lehigh County in Allentown, Pa., told the Morning Call after a voter smashed an electronic voting machine with a metallic cat paperweight.

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford was red-faced after being turned away from the polling place at Sullivan’s Island Elementary School because he had forgotten his voter registration card.

Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan said she was asked three times for photo identification — a requirement banned by the state’s Supreme Court — when casting an absentee ballot on Friday.

Voters in Minnesota, Missouri, South Carolina and Wisconsin said photo identification was required at some precincts, although it is not mandated by state law.

Polling stations remained open longer in Indiana and Pennsylvania because of machine problems. ES&S; voting equipment in Pennsylvania and MicroVote systems in Indiana experienced failures. Courts also extended voting hours in areas of Georgia, Illinois, South Carolina, North Carolina and Wisconsin. An Ohio judge allowed 16 precincts to keep polls open later, including the affluent Shaker Heights area, where voters who showed up when the polls opened were delayed because of machine problems.

Precinct workers in Maryland forgot to plug in Diebold machines, which failed when batteries ran dead.

“What can I say? At 5:30 a.m., I’m coffee-deprived,” one Maryland poll worker said.

Most states were using the new touch-screen or optical scan equipment for the first time after it was mandated by the Help America Vote Act of 2002.

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales had dispatched 850 poll watchers to 69 jurisdictions in 22 states to prevent voter fraud. In addition, thousands of lawyers on the right and left were preparing to file legal challenges after the elections.

The Election Incident Reporting System reported that voters in Arizona, California, Maryland, New York and Tennessee said they did not receive absentee ballots that they had requested or received them too late to return on time.

The EIRS reported that a polling place in Ohio opened late because of an overnight break-in, and numerous problems with machines were reported. A local TV station aired footage of Republican Rep. Jean Schmidt’s battle with an optical scan voting machine, which repeatedly rejected her ballot.

Arizona voters reported that a group of people dressed in brown or black shirts at various polling locations in Pima County claimed to be preventing illegal aliens from voting, intimidating Hispanic voters.

In Broward County, Fla., one polling place didn’t open until hours after it was supposed to because of ES&S; machine problems.

Reports from Chicago indicate that the most common problems encountered were polling places running low on pens for marking paper ballots, and election judges improperly initializing ballots.

Cook County Clerk David Orr, who is responsible for all elections in the county except in Chicago, said he had “few complaints.”

“There were some breakdowns, but there is no such thing as an election with no breakdowns,” Mr. Orr said.

In Kansas, poll workers used hand lotion to solve sporadic problems with the touch-screen voting system, the EIRS reported.

“Machines have rejected the encoded cards that voters plug into the machines, forcing shutdowns and recoding,” the EIRS said. “Poll workers in Johnson County are using hand lotion to prevent the machines from spitting out the cards.”

Turnout was expected to be heavy in states with hotly contested Senate races, such as Maryland, Virginia, Tennessee, Missouri and Montana.

However, Michael P. McDonald, assistant professor at George Mason University and a visiting fellow with the Brookings Institution, said turnout was likely to be below average nationwide, about 39 percent.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 88 million people, or 42.3 percent of eligible voters, cast ballots in the most recent nonpresidential election in 2002, up from 83 million, or 41.9 percent, in 1998.

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