Poll Workers Struggle With New Voting Machines - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Poll Workers Struggle With New Voting Machines

Many of the mistakes reported at polling places had to do with the new electronic voting machines purchased by the Secretary of State's office. When poll workers struggled setting them up Tuesday morning, and then several of the machines stopped working, the early part of the election became a hassle for everybody.

About 350 electronic voting machines were sent to 66 Harrison County voting precincts. And every time one of the machines broke down, Connie Ladner's cellphone rang.

"Do you think you need it?" she asked one caller. When the answer from that precinct was yes, she said, "I'll get somebody to bring it out."

This first general election with the new technology was anything but smooth. Harrison County Election Commissioner dashed from precinct to precinct to deal with the voting problems.

"It's a new program, a new system," she said when asked about the Diebold voting machines. "And we knew we were going to have some problems with it."

Many of those problems were at the D'Iberville Civic Center. Precinct manager Erika Hardy called the first few hours of voting, "Chaos." Of the 14 machines sent to the D'Iberville site, just three initially worked. Some were frozen. Others had printer problems.

Ray Phillips spent much of his morning directing voters to the few machines that worked. Phillips said the voting machine technology was just "like a computer. The computer works right, it's the best machine in the world. If it doesn't, it's no good."

In this case, the voting machine trouble created an assortment of headaches. And Hardy, a 30 year poll working veteran, didn't bring any aspirin.

"This has been the worst ever, because the machines, they didn't want to cooperate," she said.

Deputy Circuit Clerk Connie Ladner agreed with her. She said the early problems created "a lot of headaches." Some computer screens froze. Other voting booths had printers breakdown.

"It's just been a little bit of everything," Ladner said.

It took until almost lunch, but the deputy circuit clerks eventually fixed the voting machine snafus.

"Once they vote on the machines, they're happy with the machines," said Ladner.

Toni Jo Diaz heard the same thing, once voters found machines that worked.

"It's all ironed out now, and everything seems to be going pretty smooth," she said.

Diaz said Harrison County actually needs to buy another 150 voting machines to handle the 2007 elections. You see, next year, statewide offices are on ballots, and she said more people are expected to vote in those races.

By Brad Kessie

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