Early voting starts in 31 states; e-voting snag in W.Va. fixed

Voters using e-voting machines urged to check printouts to verify their choices

With two weeks to go before the presidential election, early voting is underway across the nation, and voters in many states are casting their ballots before Election Day to avoid the long lines expected on Nov. 4.

Thirty-one states, including California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Texas and West Virginia, allow voters to go to the polls in person before Election Day, according to the Early Voting Information Center at Reed College in Portland, Ore.

Three states -- Kentucky, Minnesota and Virginia -- plus the District of Columbia also allow early voting but require voters to give a reason for why they wouldn't be able to vote on Election Day.

Among other things, early voting may reduce the crush of voters on Nov. 4, when turnout is expected to be high; it could also give states a chance to check their Election Day processes ahead of time.

In at least one of the early-voting states, West Virginia, two voters said they had problems with touch-screen e-voting machines when they cast their ballots on Friday, but the problems were eventually resolved.

Barbara "Bobbi" Oates, a retired West Virginia State Tax Department official from Scott Depot, W.V., and Calvin Thomas, a retired machine operator from Ripley, W.V., said the iVotronic machines they used apparently "switched" their selections from the candidates they chose to the opposing candidates in some of the races, causing them to ask election officials for assistance. Election Systems & Software manufactures iVotronic machines.

"It did switch my vote," Oates said. "I corrected it. I touched my [candidate's name on the ballot screen] and it switched to the candidate in the other party."

A poll worker showed Oates how to de-select the incorrect candidate and change it to the correct selection, she said, but Oates was worried that other voters might not know to ask about such a problem. "What concerned me is that people are not computer-savvy" and wouldn't know to ask, she said. "I think this election is very crucial and you want the person you voted for to get your vote."

Thomas, 81, said he also was concerned about how other voters potentially could be affected if they didn't know to check their candidate selections before finalizing their ballots.

Thomas said he has vision problems and took his daughter with him in case he needed help casting his ballot. "I've been a registered Republican all my life," Thomas said. "This election, I'm voting Democratic. We pushed [Barack] Obama [on the touch screen], and when we pushed Obama, it jumped up to [Republican presidential candidate John] McCain. It did the same for the governor's race."

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