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. Joe Green

    Texas is going McCain anyway, so no great loss.

    October 28, 2008 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
  2. Matt

    and it begins

    October 28, 2008 11:17 pm at 11:17 pm |
  3. Texans for Obama

    For the poster that asked about the dress code. Texas requires one. We can't wear anything party affiliated to the polls. No pro-Obama shirts etc. If you do, then you're turned away.

    October 28, 2008 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  4. sandee in Portland

    Too bad the rest of the states don't vote like Oregon. Here we receive a ballot in the mail approximately 2 weeks before Nov. 4th. In the privacy of our home, we can sit down and vote by filling in a circle next to the name or measure we want to vote for with pen or pencil. We can then return it by mail or drop it off at one of the many polling places. No standing in lines for hours in the rain or cold, no hurrying to vote so the next person can get in the door; no computerized machines that fail or register the vote wrong, no hanging chads. Why don't more states do it like we do. It's the best.

    Voted for Obama/Biden last week

    October 28, 2008 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  5. patricia

    Hey when they push the button do they get a free cigarette too??? Well maybe this will help offset all the Obama voter fraud...

    October 28, 2008 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  6. Dee

    This is why I'm choosing not to vote early. On November 4 in Williamson County, Texas, I'll be able to use a paper ballot. It'll be a LONG wait, but I have to do it.

    October 28, 2008 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  7. Rev Wrong

    Redistribution on wealth is phase one of reparations!

    October 28, 2008 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  8. VA Veteran

    Actually, ACORN would be voter fraud!

    If you folks honestly believe that the machines are rigged to vote Republican then you seriously need professional help because your paranoia is getting the better of you.

    October 28, 2008 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  9. Kathy in Florida

    McSenile will do anything to win.

    October 28, 2008 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  10. Texas Trail Dog!


    October 28, 2008 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  11. Lory from Texas

    It's very lonely in Texas being a Democrat. But I have finally voted this past week and I cannot wait till we finally have Obama/Biden in office. I am so tired of the "Closed Minded" Republican Texans down here. Maybe someday, Texans will open their eyes.

    October 28, 2008 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  12. Gnomepark

    .......we went to the moon in '69....and can't get machines to work in 08......

    Obama/Biden 08
    Dick Lugar (R) for Secretary of State

    October 28, 2008 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  13. not fooled

    Anyone who asks "why is it never a republican vote that gets switched to a Dem"


    -Perpetuated the biggest electoral fraud since 1876 in 2000 by suing to have the recount stopped (i.e. legitimate votes counted) and then bussing their supporters to intimidate election officials. These same criminals have the nerve to complain about ACORN?

    -Every rethuglican pundit from here to China was laughing at Hillary showing emotion claiming she wasnt fit to play with the boys. Now people are sexist for claiming some worthless community college reject cant be president? HUH?

    -Bang on and on about the experience Barack Obama lacks and then put forth the same joke of a bimbo as your VEEP. You cant have it both ways, fools

    the blue wave is coming, so you better find high ground and throw these lunatics out of your party before they destroy us all. Sarah Palin with the nuclear codes? LOL

    October 28, 2008 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  14. mary

    If skinhead McCain wins this election, I will know for sure that our votes do not count. So, why bother to vote at all. If the machines have hair triggers, they need to throw them out. When Palin goes to Alaska she need to stay there, we do not need her here.

    October 28, 2008 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  15. Tbone

    Hey Proud Veteran,

    McCain's tax plan takes more of your money–unless you're the .1% of veterans who earn more than $250,000. Vote for your buddy if you want, but don't try to misinform everyone else that it is because you would personally benefit financially. Facts are facts.

    October 28, 2008 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  16. James Feagans

    The truth as i see it is that the good people of Texas will support
    Senator Obama when it counts.

    October 28, 2008 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  17. Mike in Texas


    I feel sorry for you. YPM deceives voters into signing petitions and then re registers them as Republicans. They are paid $5 for every Republican registration by Steve Poisner who is the co chair or McCain's campaign in Californa. A

    The RNC and McCain's campaign paid $175,000 to Lincoln Strategies for registering voters...The head of Lincoln is Nathan Spruill who has torn up democratic registration forms and only submitted Republican ones. He is also known for slamming just like YPM.

    On Saturday October 18, the head of YPM, Mark Jacoby was arrested in California for voter registration fraud. He was trying to register to vote in California even though he didn't live there. Since his arrest have you heard the McCain campaign mention ACORN??? No......I wonder why. He broke state laws....read about it.

    October 28, 2008 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  18. kris p


    Research the company quoted on this report and Diebold voting machines on Wikioedia and learn the degree of compromise we have in our free and fair electoral process.

    This is what the democrats need to worried about right now.

    Vote by paper if you can and ensure NOBODY tampers with machine where you vote.

    October 29, 2008 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  19. James Feagans

    Hello, America, We have no major election fraud this time
    because Obama will win by vote and because he is also the inside

    October 29, 2008 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  20. surprisingly competitive

    what else do you expect in a place where Bush reigns supreme?

    October 29, 2008 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  21. Jarebear

    When I hear reports of the opposite happening, a vote for McCain yields a vote for Obama, I won't be any less suspicious that all of these machines are just calibrated wrong. What's it been, 3 stories now where Obama votes go to McCain or a third party?

    October 29, 2008 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  22. BK

    Notice how when these machines mess up its ALWAYS switching it from Obama to McCain. This is the SAME as it was last election, I had to get on another machine because my machine kept switching my vote from Kerry to Bush.
    This needs looked into CNN! This is not joke and has been going on for at least three elections!

    October 29, 2008 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  23. James Feagans

    My possible list of fun HALLOWEEN masks include: A JOHN MCCAIN
    mask which I pull off to reveal my true face of Bush,or my Obama
    mask which I pull off to reveal the face of Me.

    October 29, 2008 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  24. Clear Thinker

    You know.....I am a believer that everything happens for a reason. Had not Dub-Ya, Katherine Harris, and the Grand OLD Party stole the election in 2000, we would not have the eloquent, smart, insightful, visionary named Barack HUSSEIN (yes, I said it all for all you yahoo, backwoods, straw chewing, hee-haw Republicans) Obama. The time for Bush, Cheney, Rove, Rumsfield, and Republicans are over. ~55% of Americans and the rest of the THE WORLD are ready for a change and are anxious to see America take back it's rightful place as leaders of the free world.

    October 29, 2008 12:19 am at 12:19 am |
  25. Clear Thinker

    Some Texans are so stupid they are looking for Bush on the ballot again. W is all they know.

    October 29, 2008 12:23 am at 12:23 am |
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