There were long lines this morning in Denver outside some polling places, where hundreds lined up to wait. Among them was Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill Ritter, who spent several hours waiting in a line outside a voting center in Washington Park in Denver.
We talked with Alton Dillard, the spokesman for the Denver City Election Commission, and it appears that the problem has to do with the electronic “pollbook” and not the voting machines themselves. Pollbooks are the electronic connections that link precincts to the city’s master list of registered voters.
Similar problems with this type of “electronic pollbook” caused massive problems in Maryland’s Montgomery County during the September primary.
Voters were slowed up when they checked into the voting center because the pollbooks experienced system slowness. The poll workers apparently called into the county elections office to check on individual voters, which created larger lines. However, the precincts were all equipped with Adobe PDF versions of the entire city’s poll listing. When asked why those were not used, the spokesman admitted: “Good question.”
Voting experts are watching Denver closely this year, in part because the city is implementing a new system of “vote centers” this year. They have eliminated more than 400 neighborhood precincts and folded them into 55 “vote centers.” These larger vote centers are designed to allow people to vote anywhere within the city – instead of having to go their local neighborhood precinct. They generally are located in high-traffic areas such as shopping malls.
As Kim Brace, our election expert, puts it: Using these vote centers for more than 350,000 registered voters in Denver is “like putting a full stream of water through a small funnel.”
Among other problems:
In Cleveland, Ohio (Cuyahoga County), there were reports that 40 precincts had problems with their machines that couldn’t be resolved, and voters were forced to vote on paper ballots. As it turns out, that isn’t exactly right. A spokesman for Cuyahoga County confirmed that problems with electronic voting machines in eight precincts forced ballot workers to use an all-paper system for roughly an hour this morning. The machines have since been corrected, and the electronic system is back up and running.
Meanwhile, in Indiana, The Star Press newspaper is reporting that officials in Delaware County are considering extending voting hours by perhaps as much as two and half hours. A court hearing will make a final determination soon.
Virtually all of Delaware County’s precincts reportedly experienced problems with voting machines this morning. Officials in the county clerk’s office say that all machines are now working and all precincts are open. The problems were caused by the voting cards that are used to bring up the ballots on the electronic touchscreen voting machines.
Delaware County went from using the older punch-card system, which they used for 15 years, to the newer MicroVote touchscreen electronic voting system in November 1995. They have used that newer electronic system since that time.
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