Touch-screen voting glitches in Florida

EFF requests extension of voting hours after some voters couldn't cast ballots for three and a half hours.

Published November 7, 2006 8:17PM (EST)

Some would-be voters in Florida's Broward County went away angry this morning when they were unable to cast their ballots because electronic voting machines had been set up improperly by election officials. The problems started shortly after polls opened at 7 a.m., when only three people had voted and all 14 voting machines stopped working at the Deerfield Beach Tower Club Teen Center, according to the Miami Herald.

After 45 minutes, four of the ES&S Votronic touch-screen voting machines were back up and running, but only some people could use them. Voters from two different precincts had been scheduled to vote at the teen center, but the machines had been set up only to accept ballots from one of those precincts. "It was a programming error on behalf of the election officials," explained Matt Zimmerman, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. According to Election Protection, a watchdog coalition that has been fielding reports of voting problems nationwide at a hot line number, some voters were unable to cast a ballot for three and a half hours. (The Miami Herald reported that the delays were more like 90 minutes.) Attorneys from Election Protection are working with Florida's governor's office to try to extend the hours of voting there tonight. "If they're not able to do it, then we will consider going to court, and asking the judge to extend the polling time for a couple of hours," said Zimmerman from the EFF.

Election Protection is receiving various reports of other problems across the nation, ranging from optical scanning machines not taking ballots or even turning on to long lines at polling places and poll workers being misinformed of their state's voting rules. In Ohio, 43 of Cuyahoga County's 573 voting places didn't open on time, or couldn't get all their electronic voting machines to work. In Georgia's Henry County, a sign outside a polling place announced "Vote Here -- I.D. Required," although courts in the state have lifted I.D. requirements for this election. And in Kansas' Johnson County, innovative poll workers resorted to greasing touch-screen voting machines with hand lotion to get them to accept the encoded cards that voters plug into machines.

By Katharine Mieszkowski

Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior writer for Salon.

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