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

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The same problem occurred when his daughter voted, Thomas said.

Thomas and his daughter asked election officials for help and were able to correct their selections, he said.

Election officials the counties where Thomas and Oates live said they responded to the reports from each of the two voters by checking and recalibrating the e-voting machines at those polling places to be sure they were operating correctly. The machines are calibrated to ensure that the part of the screen where a voter's fingertip touches is in just the right spot to tally a vote for that candidate.

Jeff Waybright, the clerk of Jackson County, where Thomas cast his ballot, said the machines checked out fine. "I don't know for sure what happened because I wasn't there, but all the tests we've done" show the devices are working properly, he said.

One thing that can happen, Waybright said, is that a voter can touch the screen and then inadvertently "roll" a finger to another part of the screen, changing the candidate selection without realizing it. "If people touch the [candidate selection] box, then their finger rolls up, it will check the box above the one they chose," Waybright said.

Out of 622 voters who cast ballots on Friday, he said, only two reported such a problem.

Waybright said that he started to investigate as soon as he heard of Thomas' problem. He called Thomas and apologized for the difficulty, he said. "I don't want anyone to be intimidated by these machines," he said.

Brian Wood, the clerk in Putnam County, where Oates cast her early ballot, said he too went in to check out the problem and even cast his own early ballot on the same machine to see how the system was working.

"I wanted to make sure that everything was going good," Wood said. He said the machine operated correctly when he voted, but he also interviewed several other voters about their experiences that day to be sure they weren't having trouble.

"We do our best to give the public all the information they can possibly get before they go into the booth," Wood said.

Just over 1,000 people voted early on Friday, Wood said, and Oates was the only one to report a problem.

Wood said he is confident that the machines were working properly.

"I pretested it," he said. "We publicly tested it. We're constantly going back and testing it. Is it a machine? Do machines sometimes malfunction? Yes, but clerks and voters and poll workers make mistakes, too."

Wood said he's concerned that reports about e-voting machines problems will keep some people from coming out to vote because they lack faith in the systems.

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