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E-voting 2006: A touch screen, a missing vote, a mystery in Arkansas

A small-town candidate says his own vote -- for himself -- wasn't counted

By Todd R. Weiss
November 14, 2006 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - With only 36 registered voters casting ballots last week on Election Day, every vote mattered in Waldenburg, Ark., population 80.

So when resident and bar owner Randy Wooten ran for mayor of the town, he was shocked when he received not a single vote in the final count -- not even his own.

His wife, Roxanne, said she voted for him too, so he should have had at least two votes, they say.

Election 2006
Yet when the votes cast on the touch-screen electronic voting machine were tabulated after the polls closed, two other candidates had received 18 votes each, and Wooten not a one.

For the past week, Wooten, 51, has been asking local election officials what could have happened, and he has attended several meetings, including an official recount of the votes. But so far, he said, no one has been able to explain the situation, which on a smaller scale reflects a similar situation in Sarasota County, Fla. There, some 18,000 voters were not recorded as casting ballots in a Congressional race.

Wooten's wife has her own idea of what went wrong.

"The machine was really touchy," she said. "When you touched one [candidate's name], it would jump to the next [candidate]. If you didn't touch it just right, exactly where you were supposed to, it would jump. In other words, whoever voted for him just wasn't careful enough. It makes you wonder about all of them."

Roxanne Wooten said that when she was able to see a review screen of her votes, she was able to catch one error and correct it. But that still doesn't explain what happened to her vote for her husband, she said.

Election officials in Poinsett County, Ark., said the matter is still being reviewed.

J.C. Lassiter, a county election commissioner, said today that an expert from the maker of the touch-screen machine, Election Systems & Software (ES&S), is coming to the town to investigate and look over the machine and the results.

A recount Monday night with the paper records printed for each voter confirmed 18 votes for incumbent Mayor William Wood, 18 votes for challenger Ronnie Chatman and no votes for Wooten. "We went over that last night," Lassiter said. "We're covering all the possibilities. We're doing everything in our power."

Lassiter said that officials only have the word of the Wootens about how they voted, but he agreed that "the touch screen is very sensitive. [The vote totals] surprised us as much as anybody else. We immediately called for a recount."

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