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US e-voting machines 'switching votes'

Officials unable to replicate voting problem

A handful of early voters in the US presidential elections have complained that electronic voting machines have switched their votes from Democrat to Republican, but West Virginia voting officials and the e-voting vendor have played down the allegations.

Three voters in Putnam County and three voters in neighboring Jackson County told the Charleston Gazette that e-voting machines from Election Systems & Software (ES&S) had switched their votes from a Democratic to a Republican candidate during recent early voting. But county election officials said they've been unable to replicate the problems, and the voters were eventually able to vote for the candidates they wanted.

In some cases, the voters told the newspaper that their attempts to vote for Democratic Senator Barack Obama for president was switched to Republican Senator John McCain. In other cases, votes for other Democratic candidates were switched, they told the newspaper.

All three people who complained were able to ultimately switch their votes to the candidates they wanted, said Jackson County Clerk Jeff Waybright, a Republican. The ES&S e-voting machines being used statewide include a paper printout of the recorded vote, plus two on-screen prompts that ask voters to confirm their picks before they cast their ballot, he said.

"There are three checks on it," Waybright said of the e-voting machines.

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Waybright suggested those voters may have touched the edge of a Republican candidate's button on the screen when attempting to vote for a Democrat. The ES&S screens have the buttons of opposing candidates right next to each other.

"I don't know what happened," Waybright said. "I'm not going to say what the voters reported was inaccurate, but we haven't been able to recreate it."

Waybright's staff has been asking voters about the performance of the e-voting machines since the news reports came out last Friday. Since then, more than 800 voters in his county have cast early ballots, with no reported problems, he said.

Waybright's office recalibrated the machines after the news reports, and the clerk's office has supplying voters with eraser-topped pencils to use as styluses instead of their fingers.

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