[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/10/28/art.touch1028.cnn.jpg caption="A caller to CNN's voter hotline reported that his mother had difficulty accurately casting her ballot on a touch screen like the one pictured here."]
(CNN) – Voters this election cycle are braving many challenges. Lines have been long for early voting in some states, some voters face rigorous identification standards, and there’s even a dress code for voters in some states.
Being certain your vote is accurately recorded is the final hurdle to participating in what is shaping up to be an unprecedented level of voter interest and turnout in the presidential election; some callers to CNN’s voter hotline are reporting problems with this important final step in the voting process.
A caller from Beaumont, Texas reports that his mother, who he accompanied to the polls, had problems assuring the electronic touch screen machine was accurately recording her preference for Sen. Barack Obama. “She went to punch the selection for Obama and it flipped to McCain,” the caller said. “They need to do something about this. They need to separate the names. Put ‘em apart, pretty much. Side-by-side instead of stacked on top of one another. This issue needs to be addressed,” said the caller.
Carolyn Guidry, the clerk of Jefferson County where Beaumont is located, is aware of the difficulties some voters are having with the county’s electronic touch screen voting machines though she points out the number of reported incidents is small. Approximately 40,000 people in Jefferson County have voted early as of Saturday night, according to Guidry. But she has only received about a half a dozen calls about touch screen machines that were not recording voters’ preferences accurately.
The “touch screens are density sensitive,” explained Guidry, who added that the machines will record were pressure is applied and that may be a different spot on the screen than where a voter believes he or she has touched. “We go out immediately and re-calibrate machines that [polling workers] say they are having problems with,” Guidry said. Calibration, the process of identifying for the machine the point on the screen that is being touch, generally resolves the problem until repeated use of the machine requires another re-calibration.
But Guidry concedes that the problem pointed out by the caller from Beaumont is something that needs fixing. “I wish we could more or less double the space between each box [with the candidates’ names on the touch screen],” said Guidry. “But the program is not designed to do that right now.” Guidry also told CNN that Jefferson County has asked Election Systems & Software, the manufacturer of the county’s machines, to look into making that change in the next iteration of the software.
Ken Fields, a spokesman for ES&S, told CNN the company was not aware of specific situations where its machines have not performed as designed. Like Guidry, Fields noted the importance being sure the machines are properly calibrated and he noted that ES&S recommends its machines be calibrated before “an election event.”
Fields also emphasized that the company’s machines have a summary screen that allows a voter to review all of his or her selections as recorded by the machine before a ballot is actually cast. The summary screen is an “important” part of the safeguards built into ES&S machines, according to Fields. Voters “absolutely should” utilize the summary screen because it allows a voter to see “clearly how choices have been selected” on an ES&S machine before a ballot is cast, Fields said.
Guidry echoed Fields’ advice. While Guidry says Jefferson County has a responsibility to make sure its machines are functioning properly, “we also want voters to take accountability too and that’s what that summary screen is for,” the county clerk said.
–CNN's Leslie Bentz contributed to this report