October 28th, 2008
08:00 PM ET
14 years ago

Texas county's machines causing concern for some voters

[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

Filed under: Texas • Voter Problems
soundoff (134 Responses)
  1. Yea right!!

    I know that the repubs are trying very hard to steal this election, & smear Obama by any means. They really have shown me that they truly are very dirty politicians. This country will lose it's #1 ranking in the free world. You can't be king without friends by your side. From what I'm reading, most of the world think we're total idiots. McCain & big business will send this country backwards for a long time. Race is a major issue in this campaign. Obama had to raise & spend much more money because he would need it. Shame to say this, but if he was white, this race would be very boring because it would have been over a long time ago To those who truly love this country, I salute you. To those who think Sarah Palin is so pro America, you should read about her & her husband'saffiliation with the American Independence Party. That group was extremely ANTI-AMERICAN. There is video from meetings and their convention on YouTube. Wake up people, this woman wanted succession of Alaska from the US.

    October 29, 2008 12:29 am at 12:29 am |
  2. Independent in Portland, OR

    VOTE BY MAIL.... Ask your state legislature to bring it to your state. It's awesome!!

    We've quietly been using this method statewide, for all elections, for more than 15 years now. We never have lines at the polls, controversey over counts, or technical problems on election day. You have a two week window to complete it and mail it in, so you can take your time if there are measures, etc, and read them carefully. Ballots are still secret, and our voter turnouts went up immediately after it was introduced.

    October 29, 2008 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
  3. Happy in Arizona

    Based on the picture, the persons finger was on the line causing the wrong vote. Why aren't the judges telling people about this.

    October 29, 2008 12:39 am at 12:39 am |
  4. Intelligent vs Ignorance.

    All this talk.It's action time. Have you voted? I voted today and it certainly feels good. Obama supportters please call, e-mail all the young voters you know and encourage them to take action because anything including weather, work schedule can stop them from voting.
    I will rather have Bush re-elected than have Palin in power. She is a nightmare to any smart person out there. She is so divisive.
    American is fighting for democracy in other countries and Palin is encouraging hatred and dividing cities and surburbs.
    We seriously need diversity lesson in this country. Ignorance have caused some to believe that some born of American mother and Keyian father some how is an Arab, Irianian etc. It is a shame.
    America should eradicate illitracy here before promoting education in other countries.

    October 29, 2008 12:39 am at 12:39 am |
  5. Gladys

    I hope the GOP don't steal this election again. Voter fraud is taking place already just like in 2000. But people are smart this time around, please make sure you check your selection before you submit it. Unbelieveable...... things like this happen in third world countries. I see the reason why Mcsame believe he'll win. Plans to steal the election like this is his birth right. No so fast McSame.

    October 29, 2008 12:43 am at 12:43 am |
  6. David

    We've seen a few reports about voting machine problems. Oddly, they all seem to be affecting Obama voters. It's almost as if someone is trying to get extra votes for McCain.

    October 29, 2008 12:49 am at 12:49 am |
  7. Republicans Will Steal The Election

    Everyone has to watch very closely – there have been numerous reports of this vote flipping. The republicans will (again) resort to any dirty trick to win.

    October 29, 2008 12:54 am at 12:54 am |
  8. Oil Worker in Texas

    To: Proud and Honest Veteran- You haave obviously forgotten that it was Ronald Reagan's ovely zeaalous spending on inflated deffense ccontrats that creaated the deficit tat Goerge H.W. Bush inhrited. Due to that deficit the first Ppresident Bush was forced to scale back on military personneel and deffense spendding. The firstt rrouund of involuntarry seperations and base closures ooccuredd before President Clinton was ellected. Let's not forget tthat thousands of veeterans came home tto find their homes in foreclosure, cars repossesed, creedit ruined, and eveen bankrupt due to administrative isssues.

    October 29, 2008 02:13 am at 2:13 am |
  9. DonnieJ

    Perhaps the reason why these are all flipping from Obama to McCain is that no one is voting for McCain in the first place?

    October 29, 2008 05:49 am at 5:49 am |
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