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Officials deny complaints of election machine malfunctions in Texas

By Eric DuVall
Officials deny complaints of election machine malfunctions in Texas
Voters cast ballots at an early voting location in Miami on Monday. A handful of absentee ballots in Broward County omitted reference to a referendum on medical marijuana, officials said. Photo by Gary I Rothstein/UPI | License Photo

DALLAS, Oct. 26 (UPI) -- Early voters in several Texas counties have taken to social media to complain touch screen voting machines switched their straight party Republican votes to ballots for Hillary Clinton, though election monitors said no instances of faulty machines have been verified.

The problem, officials said, was probably user error by voters who are unfamiliar with touch screen technology.

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The Dallas Morning News reports voters from at least four counties complained on social media the electronic machine that produces their ballot switched their vote from a straight line Republican ticket to a vote for Hillary Clinton. Other down-ballot races were not affected, voters said.

Elections officials in all but one of the affected counties said no voters had registered official complaints. In a handful of instances, voters took the ballot to poll workers, saying their ballot reflected something other than what they had intended. In those instances, officials said the poll workers voided the ballot and moved the voter to a different machine where they were able to correct the problem.

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Texas officials said no voters have filed formal complaints about faulty election machines. While voting procedures vary by county in Texas, generally, if a voter complains a machine did not work properly before leaving the polling place, workers are instructed to remove it from use until a technician can examine it. In the vast majority of cases, technicians find nothing wrong, meaning the problem was most likely user error.

The touch screen machines are recalibrated each morning to ensure the screens register votes for the portion of the screen where voters actually touch, officials said.

Collin County Elections Commissioner Bruce Sherbet told the Morning News that voters should immediately report any problems to poll workers so they can check the machines, rather than complaining on social media afterward.

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"If we had someone in the polling place tell us, 'Hey, it marked something other than what I marked on the screen,' we would stop the process and ask the voter to show us," Sherbet said. "We can absolutely verify and check that in front of the voter. If there were a problem with a machine, it would immediately be taken out of service."

However, in Chambers County, officials were forced to switch to paper ballots on the first day of early voting after a glitch in the machines was discovered. The glitch prevented votes in one local judicial race from registering when voters selected the straight GOP ticket option.

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Chambers County Clerk Heather Hawthorne said she noticed the problem first-hand when casting her own ballot and another voter had the same problem on another machine. Hawthorne said the problem was in the computer coding and all machines in the county were taken offline until it could be remedied.

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Texas is not the only state to suffer early voting hiccups.

Officials in Broward County, Fla., acknowledged what they said are a small number of ballots that omitted the state's medical marijuana referendum were sent out to voters who requested a mail-in absentee ballot.

Two voters said their ballots did not contain Amendment 2, which would permit the use of medicinal marijuana. Officials said they believe those voters were accidentally sent sample ballots that were not approved for official use. They said only seven such ballots out of the 173,000 absentee ballots sent out so far could have contained the problem.

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