Following e-voting glitches

Keep track of voting-equipment problems that arise during Election Day, from paper jams to scanner malfunctions to potentially misrecorded votes.

Stephanie Condon Staff writer, CBSNews.com
Stephanie Condon is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.
Stephanie Condon
5 min read

In any election, voting problems are bound to crop up--whether it's miscalibrated electronic machines or a lack of pencils to fill out paper ballots.

In such a highly anticipated election, the sheer number of people expected to vote Tuesday will likely add to the problems. CNET News will be keeping track of e-voting glitches and problems as they arise. Refresh for updates throughout the day (all times in PST, unless noted otherwise).

2:20 p.m.: "The misinformation is flying fast and furious" about voting problems in Florida, said Jennifer Davis, communications director for the Florida Secretary of State's office.

"We are not getting any large reports of machines malfunctioning," Davis said. "Any issues that have come up have been resolved quickly."

Various news reports have indicated that voters in Florida have had to wait in long lines to vote because of voting-machine failures and registration mistakes. Davis said that in most parts of the state, the wait to vote is about 15 to 20 minutes.

Specifically, reports have mentioned that machines at some Palm Beach County precincts do not accept ballots if the second page, which contains proposed amendments to the Florida Constitution, is not filled out. However, Davis said the machines intentionally function in that way to ensure that the voter meant to leave the second page blank, and it should not lead to any problems.

"That's a security feature we put in there so the voter has a chance to affirmatively say, 'Yes, I meant to not vote on those,'" she said.

1:15 p.m.: Several counties across Pennsylvania have reported voting-machine malfunctions, but "we haven't had any reports of any major problems," said Leah Harris, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Secretary of State's office.

News reports and voter complaints logged at OurVoteLive both indicate that the biggest problems have been in Philadelphia and Allegheny Counties. OurVoteLive has recorded at least 83 complaints about voting equipment from individual voters in Philadelphia and 22 from voters in Allegheny. Harris could not say specifically what kinds of problems the counties have experienced, but she said they were not significant.

"They've been manageable, and all of them have been resolved or are in the process of being resolved," she said. "I believe there was even a report of machines just not being plugged in."

News reports from Pennsylvania have said precincts have been running out of paper ballots--which the state must hand out to voters if half of the voting machines in a precinct are malfunctioning. However, Harris said her office has heard of no such problems.

Fifty-one counties in Pennsylvania use direct-recording electronic machines, while 12 use optical-scan machines. Four counties use a combination of the two machine types.

Pennsylvania has 8,758,031 registered voters this year--more than ever before--and Harris said the voter turnout is likely to reflect that.

10:30 a.m: Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader received some special attention this morning in Ohio, thanks to a touch-screen voting machine at a Knox county precinct.

The machine would cast votes only for Nader, according to the Columbus Dispatch, but the machine was reset and back in service by 9:30 a.m. Those interested in voting for other candidates used one of the precinct's other two machines.

The only other touch-screen machine problems in Ohio have been paper jams caused by printouts of voter-verified ballots, said Kevin Kidder, a spokesman for the Ohio Secretary of State's office. Fifty-three of the state's 88 counties use touch-screen machines.

The Ohio Secretary of State's office issued a directive this year for precincts to maintain two lines--one for touch-screen voting and one for paper ballots--so long lines do not form. Some lines have had about an hour-long wait, Kidder said. The Columbus Dispatch reported that some voters were choosing to wait in longer lines to use the touch-screen machines because they trusted them more than paper ballots.

"Voting's been steady," Kidder said. "There have been a few normal hiccups here or there, and there's been an extensive use of paper ballot backups, just to keep things moving."

He said the state expects an 80 percent turnout rate.

7:30 a.m.: Bad weather may not deter citizens from voting, but it can throw some voting machines out of whack.

Virginians are turning out in record numbers, said Susan Pollard, director of communications for the Virginia State Board of Elections. Overall, there have been no widespread problems reported in the state, she said, though some machines have been malfunctioning, apparently because of rain.

"We are getting some reports that the optical scanning is not working quite the way it normally should...as a result of voters coming in from the rain and filling out ballots with wet hands and wet clothes," she said. "We're trying to let people know that you need to be sure to dry your hands before completing the ballot."

The board call center has also been malfunctioning and dropping some voters' calls. Pollard said staffers were retrieving the phone numbers in those cases and calling voters back. One alternative way to contact the board is at its Web site, www.sbe.virginia.gov, which Pollard said is receiving unprecedented traffic.

"It may be moving a little bit slowly, but I've been assured that it is still operating," she said.

6 a.m.: The Electronic Frontier Foundation site OurVoteLive.org, which is recording complaints from voters across the country, has had more than 9,000 complaints of voting problems, including at least 500 reports with voting equipment.

A few problems have been reported in Virginia, which became a surprise battleground state this year. In Northern Virginia, where many follow politics closely due to the region's proximity to Washington, people started lining up--at one voting precinct, at least--as early as 4:30 a.m. (EST), CNN reports.

According to reports from OurVoteLive, some precincts in Virginia are equipped with fewer voting machines than expected, while many voters are simply reporting that voting machines are "not working."

In Reston, there have been reports of paper ballot scanners malfunctioning. A few voters in Richmond report that the electronic machines in use told the voters that their votes for president had been recorded when, in fact, the voters had not yet voted for president.

Even though nearly 40 percent of voters in Florida cast their votes early, lines formed before precincts even opened in Miami-Dade County and elsewhere around the state.

The St. Petersburg Times reports that a paper jam in the ballot scanners held up about 200 people in line to vote in St. Petersburg. The problem, though, was resolved after about 45 minutes.

In Duval County, a few optical scanners malfunctioned but were fixed within a couple hours, the Florida Times-Union reports. Otherwise, voting in Duval County was reported to be going smoothly.