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

Texas county's machines causing concern for some voters

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.

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. .......

    this is exactly what happened in The Simpsons.

    October 28, 2008 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  2. barackobama4prez

    The GOP will not steal this election. They are on the wrong side of history.

    October 28, 2008 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  3. Accountant Guy

    This is why everyone needs to get out and vote early and double and triple check your ballot before you submit it!! Get out and Barack the Vote America!!

    Obama/Biden '08

    October 28, 2008 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  4. From Texas

    Just ask for paper ballots if available

    October 28, 2008 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  5. thomas

    This makes me very nervous. I hope this election isn't close.

    October 28, 2008 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  6. Texas Teacher

    .... no surprise to me. When I voted in 2004, as soon as I cast my vote, a ping sound was heard. Everyone all around me looked at my machine. No one else had a ping sound until my mother voted democratic.... same ping. We got many dirty looks as we left the voting place. I said to my mom, "Our vote was just erased! I would bet money on it."

    Voter fraud is my fear.... NOT registration fraud! Repubs are throwing up a smoke screen. They know the machines have not been changed! The same Big Business companies that benefit from the Bush policies are the very ones who make and install the machines! If McCain wins, it will be a FIX, I guarantee it!

    That's why Mom and I voted early this year. That is why I recommend to everyone to VOTE EARLY!

    October 28, 2008 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  7. Ben in KC

    Hey county officials.... STOP buying machines that are obviously crap. "Vote with your dollars" seems to be an apt phrase here.

    October 28, 2008 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  8. jm from sc

    This is truly a sad day in America. How far would republicans go to get McCain in the whitehouse.

    Obama/Biden 08

    October 28, 2008 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  9. S. Boatman

    Why Dont I Ever Hear About A Vote For Mccain Ever Being Switched To Obama? Its Always An Obama Vote Being Switched To Mccain!

    October 28, 2008 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  10. AmericadowntheDrainMcCain

    Dirty strategy... How low will these republicans go to try to try to secure this thing unfairly...but nothing will stop the sweep. There is too much coverage. we cannot allow another GOP election theft.

    Obama/Biden 08

    October 28, 2008 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  11. vote! OBAMA-BIDEN NOV.4th


    October 28, 2008 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  12. Colin

    Virginia and now Texas.....so it begins again this election season....

    October 28, 2008 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  13. Leah DiMarco, Texas

    I voted today in Texas and my polling place did not have touch screens. I think ALL touch screens should be outlawed and however you vote should ALWAYS have a paper backup!

    October 28, 2008 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |

    I should have known this would be happening in Texas. They are worst than Florida. The GOONS BETTER NOT SCREW UP THIS TIME AROUND WITH THE ELECTION. It will be a sad day in America's History. Many Americans are sick and tired of being robbed by their local and state officials during the election time. Paper trails are needed period!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    October 28, 2008 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  15. Bit

    This has also happened in Virginia and other states. These machines are rigged for McCain. Whoever set these machines up knows that the majority of the votes will go to Obama.

    This is an outrage! Hey, but that's ok because God sees it and it will all work out.

    October 28, 2008 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  16. No Hillary = No Obama

    I went down to the voter registration office a month ago to change my affiliation from Democrat to Independent. So they send me TWO absentee ballots. Good thing I don't work for ACORN.

    October 28, 2008 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  17. mo

    Let the games begin. What a joke. Why can't they go with the will of the people. It's funny..."Country First". What a crock! Lie, Cheat and Steal first!!!

    OBAMA 08

    October 28, 2008 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  18. Informed Voter in FL

    When the Democrats take Office .... they should reform the electoral process!!!!!!!!!!

    October 28, 2008 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  19. Bill in Ct.

    Those machines were set up by republicans, I read the story about those machines. Their having the same problems in west Virginia, you push the button for Obama and it goes to McCain, the woman at the voting booth tried to say it was the man fault so he did it again and it come up again to McCain. Don't be fooled everyone the Rethugs are trying everything you can think of to rig this election.

    October 28, 2008 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  20. Thomas

    Oh, please don't tell me there's going to be another rigged election!

    October 28, 2008 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  21. Just Joe

    If you are in the booth and this happens, please call an election official over to help you before you continue on.

    October 28, 2008 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  22. Thomas in PDX

    A dress code?

    You can't be serious. What state would require such a moronic standard?

    October 28, 2008 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  23. KS

    I wanted to know why is Samuel Wurzelbacher still being referred as "Joe the Plumber" when the whole country knows he is not a plumber with a license to perform his duties. Is it not the time to call him "JOE THE NOT SO PLUMBER" or "JOE THE UNLICENSED PLUMBER" or "JOE THE NON-TAX PAYER" ?

    The media should accurately portrait the sheer atrocities of McCAIN's camp in using Samuel Wurzelbacher spreading wrong notion all along.

    October 28, 2008 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  24. DavidA

    The Republicans will try to steal this election. That is how they get power. Lie, cheat, steal, decieve.

    They keep talking about money. Many people never got rich under Bush.

    Bush/McCain/Palin....You are ALL pigs...Dirty pigs....

    October 28, 2008 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  25. Bill in Ct.

    To ( no Hillary ): Acorn did nothing wrong so get your story right. That was a stunt made up by Republicans to oppress blacks and low income people from voting. But once again someone like you never see or say anything about all the corrupt things the republicans are doing by stealing peoples votes. So Hillary lose get over it you cry baby.

    October 28, 2008 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
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