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Pennsylvania e-voting machine casts wrong ballot. Oops

An electronic voting machine was briefly taken offline today when it mistook a vote for Barack Obama as one for Mitt Romney. Republicans say they have reports of the opposite happening too.

Declan McCullagh Former Senior Writer
Declan McCullagh is the chief political correspondent for CNET. You can e-mail him or follow him on Twitter as declanm. Declan previously was a reporter for Time and the Washington bureau chief for Wired and wrote the Taking Liberties section and Other People's Money column for CBS News' Web site.
Declan McCullagh
2 min read
This type of voting machine was less buggy: a large piece of paper used with a voting machine in Chicago in 1904.
This type of voting machine was less buggy: a large piece of paper used with a voting machine in Chicago in 1904. Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago History Museum.

An electronic voting machine in Pennsylvania was briefly taken offline today -- and apparently reconfigured and placed back in service -- after a YouTube video showed evidence of voting irregularities.

The video, which received a flurry of attention after being posted at Reddit.com, appeared to show an attempted vote for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama being reflected as a vote for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Republicans have also warned of voting machine glitches going in the other direction. In a letter (PDF) to state voting officials last week, the GOP's top lawyer said the party has received reports of machines that "populated a vote for Barack Obama when a voter cast his or her ballot for Mitt Romney."

NBC News confirmed that the machine was taken out of service, and a followup report from Mother Jones said it "is now back online after officials received a complaint and recalibrated the machine." It wasn't entirely clear whether the machine that was taken offline was the same as the one shown in the video, but a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of State suggested it was.

The initial report on Reddit from "centralpavote" said:

I initially selected Obama but Romney was highlighted. I assumed it was being picky so I deselected Romney and tried Obama again, this time more carefully, and still got Romney. Being a software developer, I immediately went into troubleshoot mode. I first thought the calibration was off and tried selecting Jill Stein to actually highlight Obama. Nope. Jill Stein was selected just fine. Next I deselected her and started at the top of Romney's name and started tapping very closely together to find the 'active areas'. From the top of Romney's button down to the bottom of the black checkbox beside Obama's name was all active for Romney. From the bottom of that same checkbox to the bottom of the Obama button (basically a small white sliver) is what let me choose Obama. Stein's button was fine. All other buttons worked fine.

I asked the voters on either side of me if they had any problems and they reported they did not. I then called over a volunteer to have a look at it. She him hawed for a bit then calmly said "It's nothing to worry about, everything will be OK." and went back to what she was doing. I then recorded this video.