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. mark

    GW Bush had them rigged just like he had his brother rig the election in Florida 4 years ago.

    October 28, 2008 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  2. Here we go again

    We can't even get an election to run smoothly. Do we really want to hand over Health Care to these people?

    October 28, 2008 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  3. vote! OBAMA-BIDEN NOV.4th


    October 28, 2008 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  4. david

    Why isn't there a hard paper copy of the votes? The Republicans beat back efforts to require it, that's why.

    If these machines can be rigged, they probably will be. And there's a lot of evidence that they can be.

    I hope the media reports on these issues properly!

    October 28, 2008 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  5. Republican for Democrat


    Why CNN is not putting this story ON AIR? CNN n others have stupid Joe the plumber news on but not THIS IMPORTANT STORY?






    October 28, 2008 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  6. vahe

    gop fraud again!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! recount recount re count if obama doesnt get elected

    October 28, 2008 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  7. Jill

    Everyone double check your vote!!! Republicans will do anything to win!

    October 28, 2008 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  8. SS

    Great another election stolen...Surprise...Surpise.

    October 28, 2008 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  9. debbie

    Gee, in Texas of all places. Quelle surprise. Danged third world country,. Glad I got the hell out after Dubya ran it into the ground,. Little did I know the ONLY campaign promise he'd keep is to do for America what he did for Texas...run the rest of the country plumb into the ground too.

    October 28, 2008 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  10. Justin from New Haven, CT

    There should be a constitutional amendment to ban electronic voting. Optical scanning paper ballots are easier and has a paper trail.

    October 28, 2008 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  11. Willy Brown

    Who's having problems? Illegal Aliens?

    October 28, 2008 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  12. Ron was a REP now a DEM

    Hey Montana looks like it's becoming a battlegroud state too the latest polls are within 5 points and a margin of 3 points. I would like someone to poll Arizonia and Miss.that have only polled 78% of commited voters

    October 28, 2008 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  13. MommaSchell

    If you experience any problems casting your vote for Obama, there is a VOTER PROTECTION CENTER on the Barack Obama site that you can refer to report any suspisicous activity, including problems with voting machines as well flyers and phone calls with fraudulent voting information. You can also check through the site to see if you are registered to vote, as well as laws and rights. If you an attorney who would like to volunteer with the campaign to help keep its integrity, you can also sign up there, too.

    October 28, 2008 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  14. Abe

    Don't be too complacent. Vote early and make sure everyone you know family and friends do the same!!!!!!!

    October 28, 2008 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  15. Richard to stop the decline of America

    This is the richest country with the most technological advances in the world. I do not believe that we cannot have a voting machine that works well and accurately. The bank machine and credit cards people do a very good and very accurate job.

    One can easily vote on the screen and it prints one's vote and you put that in a voting box for cross check and recount, if necessary.

    If the democrats and Obama camp did not do anything to prevent this from happenning for the third time, then they deserve to be robbed again. Karl Rove is even more brillaint than i thought.

    October 28, 2008 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  16. Kevin, Austin

    I'm new in Austin, and was hanging out with my new neighbors last week. They know I'm an Obama supporter (two yard signs and bumper stickers pretty much gives it away.) Five of them admitted being life-long Repulbicans. Four of them were voting Obama. The fifth hadn't decided, but wasn't voting for four-more-years-of-Bush McCain. Probably going toward Ron Paul.

    Texas will still stay red, but the revolution has begun. LBJ gave away the south for 30 years – the price to pay for Civil Rights. We're taking it back.

    October 28, 2008 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  17. Mary

    Republicans = Voter Fraud

    October 28, 2008 10:34 pm at 10:34 pm |
  18. Bulldog

    Has anybody reported they voted for McCain and it switched to Obama? Just curious since the GOP is kwown for these kinds of tactics just like the memos going out in Virginia that tell voters that Republicans will vote on Nov 4 and Democrats will vote on Nov 5 to cut down on the long lines. This is how the GOP plays, dirty. They have no right to complain about other countries who steal elections because they have been caught doing the same election fraud tactics for at least a decade now.

    October 28, 2008 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
  19. Dan, TX

    Given McCain's experience and how he is so well known, if there are any undecided voters left, it is clear they won't be voting for McCain. They are trying to decide, vote for Obama, or just stay home.

    October 28, 2008 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  20. js

    Why does the media cover so much palin? I thought Mcain was teh GOP nominee. According to CNN you would think the race is Obama Vs Palin. how about Mcain and Biden. Why are the media talking about palins abuse of power case this shows bad jugement.

    October 28, 2008 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
  21. lovable liberal

    What's the benefit of these hackable voting systems? They count fast. Is that the most important result for an election? Only if you want to call the result quickly.

    October 28, 2008 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
  22. Proud and Honest Vetran Republican for McCain

    I'm so sick of listening to all these darn whining Democrats! I almost hope McCain loses so I don't have to listen to any more sniveling, pouting, childish crap for the next 4 years. No, wait....I am FOR this great country and don't want to see someone as liberal and inexperienced as Mr. Obama destroy it. I work hard for my money and cannot bear the thought of an Obama, Pelosi, and Reed trio of "thieves" raiding my paycheck so that they can "spread the wealth". I spent 20 years in the military and remember the "lean years" under Bill Clinton....no money for parts, no training budget, involuntary seperations, miniscule pay raises, and base closures that destroyed local economies and futures. No Thank you! Never again!!! Vote GOP and keep more of your paycheck, sleep easy at night, and know that all around the world Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines are standing watch so that you still have the right to vote (and whine)! McCain/Pailin 2008 and 2012.

    October 28, 2008 10:39 pm at 10:39 pm |
  23. Al

    Are there really voting machine problems in Texas, or could it be that everyone there created shock waves in the region and voted for Obama and they are scratching their heads? Wouldn't that be really cool if Texas went blue?

    October 28, 2008 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  24. Gerda Edwards

    Let's see - take your time, check your work, verify it's what you want before you confirm, then blame someone else and expect the gov't to make everything right things, instead of starting over and trying again.

    Yup, sounds like a typical Democrat.

    And "Republican for Democrat," this issue is NOT that an Obama vote goes to McCain, it's that the pressure density sensitivity can be off from the pixels. So overall it can be just as likely that a McCain vote goes to Obama. You obviously just read the headlines and the captions, which explains your screen name.

    October 28, 2008 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  25. not a democrat

    I am quite certain the old lady put her finger on the wrong button. Just like someone to scream about something that probably never happened.

    October 28, 2008 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
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