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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"I don't want people to get discouraged and not go out to vote," he said. "If they get discouraged ... then that's bad."

The iVotronic e-voting machines from by Omaha-based ES&S include a paper feed that prints out a record of how a person voted so the voter can confirm his choices. All of West Virginia's 55 counties use iVotronic machines.

Pamela Smith, president of San Francisco-based VerifiedVoting.org, a nonprofit, nonpartisan election watchdog group, said the problems reported in West Virginia are typically related to the machine's calibration and can be corrected by careful re-adjustment.

Oates and Thomas did the right thing by notifying poll workers, whose responses to the requests for assistance were appropriate, she said. "Voters often think they are doing something wrong and that it's not the machine," she said.

Voters should always confirm their choices on the paper printout, if there is one, to ensure their ballots are properly cast, she said.

Smith said she's concerned that won't happen on Nov. 4 if there are long lines. "What worries me is there's going to be so much pressure ... for people to hurry up" and make their choices, she said. "I'm concerned that people won't take that extra moment to check."

Ken Fields, a spokesman for ES&S, said the devices have a built-in safeguard to prevent voters from voting incorrectly. There is a required review screen that summarizes a voter's choices before the ballot is officially cast and tallied. "You cannot cast your votes without completing that review screen," he said.

Fields agreed that proper touch-screen calibration is the key to preventing problems with votes that may accidentally be displayed for the wrong candidates on the screen. "There's no [problem] with the equipment," he said.

Last week, a report from three voting security advocacy groups said that that some states were not doing everything they could to ensure the accuracy of e-voting machines. The report, released by Common Cause, Verified Voting and the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, also gave 10 states inadequate grades in three of four categories of safeguards that should be in place for e-voting.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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