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. James

    You people are out of your mind. You honestly think these machines are rigged??

    October 28, 2008 10:45 pm at 10:45 pm |
  2. nelda

    Republicans are dirty politicans and will do anything to keep control.
    It is about time to boot them out of the White House and get a fresh mind with ideas to get this country moving into a positive direction.

    I'm not surprise about Beaumont, Texas. I used to live there. Its full of rednecks.

    October 28, 2008 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
  3. paula

    I wonder if there's a way to get some stats on how many folks switched from Republican to Democrat because of Palin. I know I did and I'm sure there are many others. She's probably the best thing that could have happened to the Democratic party.

    October 28, 2008 10:49 pm at 10:49 pm |
  4. Mike in Texas

    I voted for Obama here in San Antonio and I tripled checked to make sure I voted for Obama. Texas may not go blue but it is a lighter shade of red than before.

    October 28, 2008 10:51 pm at 10:51 pm |
  5. Chris - Seattle

    I just sent a comment that was blasted out of existence! But don't fret, to sum it up I said kick back smoke a doob, sip a coldie and vote! Don't pay attention to all this BS! If you have a problem when you vote? Report it! Otherwise, ride the wave baby!!!

    I miss u America! We're almost back together...hang on...we're comin'!

    October 28, 2008 10:51 pm at 10:51 pm |
  6. Cee

    Sour grapes, looking for the ACLU? Getting ready to challenge? Boy are we in for it? Next wednesday will be a telling day !

    October 28, 2008 10:51 pm at 10:51 pm |
  7. Francis, Hawaii

    One way McCain can win! They better get these voting machines corrected and made sure they are in the correct working order.

    October 28, 2008 10:53 pm at 10:53 pm |
  8. Mark Ramsey MD Milwaukee WI

    Relax, folks. There's just no way they can steal this one. It's so clear even from early voting how things are going that, if McCain/Palin somehow "won" this one, I think we would literally have an uprising.

    October 28, 2008 10:53 pm at 10:53 pm |
  9. Mike in Texas

    The real problem is Republicans telling college students that will lose their scholarship if they vote, or they will be arrested if they have parking tickets and vote, or they cannot vote if they aren't a resident of the state. Let's get video cameras at these polling places and record these gestapo thugs in action and put them away for voter suppression.

    October 28, 2008 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  10. Mike in Texas


    You are a moron. Texas is one the strongest states in the union right now. Our economy is growing. 4 of the top 6 job markets in the country are in Texas: Dallas, Austin, San Antonio and Houston. Austin and San Antonio are the top two cities in the country in terms of how far your dollar goes. No state taxes, low unemployment. Your comments show your ignorance or stupidity...I don't know which it is.

    October 28, 2008 10:57 pm at 10:57 pm |
  11. Gerda Edwards

    "Republicans are dirty politicans and will do anything to keep control."

    nelda, you might want to read up on Obama's modus operandi when it comes to elections. Getting petitions thrown out, lying about accepting public financing, supporting voter fraud, buying votes, etc.

    Three words: pot, kettle, black

    October 28, 2008 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
  12. Jed in Texas

    Every thing here in Texas is rigged and owned by big oil, natural gas,the arms industry,kbr,haliburton etc.

    October 28, 2008 11:00 pm at 11:00 pm |
  13. Mike in Texas


    YPM and Lincoln Strategies Group. Read about them and then and their ties to McCain and then rethink your comment.

    October 28, 2008 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  14. Jed in Texas

    Every thing here in Texas is rigged and owned by big oil, natural gas,the arms industry,kbr,haliburton etc.

    October 28, 2008 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  15. Think a bit...it's not that hard.

    Hey proud and honest veteran...think about what you're saying. Typical military attitude. Just one question...who wrote the new GI Bill that McCain voted against? Oh...that's right...Senator Jim Webb (D) – Va. Yeah....democrats are bad for the military. I'm tired of hearing that. And I'm a proud Democrat and veteran (10 yrs and counting) myself.

    October 28, 2008 11:06 pm at 11:06 pm |
  16. Bob Stephens

    Sounds like the Diebold machines are at it again. Remember Diebold and George Bush are friends.

    October 28, 2008 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  17. Andrew

    Unfortunately to get a fair shake in Texas may be impossible. The state is corrupt to the bone although there is some good people there. The neo cons will not win this election though. Obama is to organized and has people in place in the key states we need to win. In addition there are democrat governors in place that used to be red like Ohio. They can't steal this one we as a party are ready. Sorry Texas, your time will come. We as a people have just got to keep pushing in these red states to get the right wingers out of office.

    October 28, 2008 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  18. Obama 4 life

    the 3rd time is not the charm disgusting repugs! obama will win,bet on it!

    October 28, 2008 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  19. abraxis

    Dems, keep an eye out for your votes! Elections have been stolen before. The last one was in 2000 and look at where it has gotten us!

    October 28, 2008 11:12 pm at 11:12 pm |
  20. Gerda Edwards

    Mike in Texas, exactly what do either of those have to do with Obama's underhanded methods in winning elections?

    Clue: Nothing

    There. I just gave it to you for free, so you didn't have to buy one. Kind of like how you hope things will be done by Obama and the Dems.

    October 28, 2008 11:12 pm at 11:12 pm |
  21. HouseDiva

    It's like Homer Simpson when he went to vote for Obama.

    Texans would rather slit their own throats before they will fairly let their crappy state turn blue.


    October 28, 2008 11:13 pm at 11:13 pm |
  22. Desmond Sequeira


    October 28, 2008 11:14 pm at 11:14 pm |
  23. Tom

    It;s funny screwed up machines seem to always favor the republican and never vice-versa. Can you say voter fraud?

    October 28, 2008 11:14 pm at 11:14 pm |
  24. Chance Haywood

    I wasn't in the booth with this woman obviously but as someone who has worked with touch screens for years as a bartender let me give you conspiracy nuts a little insight about how they work...

    Depending on the height of the person who configured the settings of the screen someone of a few inches taller or shorter can hit what they think is one button and the machine may very well register a different item. Since I am normally the tallest person in what ever bar I happen to be working I always have my a co-worker configure the screen when it become out of "whack" which basically can happen after a few thousand or even as few as a few hundred touches.

    I'd say 9 times out of a 10 if I have a error on my ring it is because the configuration on the screen isn't set right from use.

    Anyhow this is just another example of why you should always verify the vote before you make it final.

    October 28, 2008 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
  25. Richard to stop the decline of America

    how do we know that the vote are not still flipping to McCain behind the screen, ie afterwards when the voter cannot see.

    October 28, 2008 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
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