Voters Reported Few Problems Using Electronic Equipment
By STEVEN GOODE And JEFFREY B. COHEN Courant Staff Writers
September 12, 2007
The transition from the old mechanical-lever to modern electronic voting machines went smoothly during Tuesday's Democratic primary in Hartford, city election officials said.
Voters reported few problems, and the experience gained during last November's statewide races, when the electronic devices were in use in several city voting districts, was likely a factor.
"I think it went extremely smooth with the new machines," said Hartford Democratic Registrar of Voters Shirley Surgeon.
There were few problems reported across the state as voters in 23 towns used new optical scan voting machines during primaries Tuesday, Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz said.
At one district in Bridgeport, Hooker School, one machine malfunctioned and 75 ballots had to be hand-counted. City officials said established procedures were used to count the ballots.
Surgeon, in Hartford, said that the only problem during the day that she was aware of came from one telephone fax voting machine designed for voters with disabilities, but added that it was quickly replaced with a working unit.
Hartford Mayor Eddie A. Perez paced the four-man field in the Democratic primary race that produced lackluster voter turnout of a little over 20 percent on a rainy, wind-swept day.
Surgeon said that typically about 25 percent of the 30,000 registered Democrats in Hartford cast ballots in primaries.
Surgeon said she hadn't heard of any issues arising from voters using the new technology after having an opportunity to test it in last November's elections. The new machines were used to count absentee ballots and were in place in four of the city's 23 polling places in 2006.
But at least one city resident took issue with a poll worker's methods.
Brittany Helddon said that when she walked into Burns Elementary School to vote, a poll worker showed her a green sample ballot with two of the bubbles colored in: one for Perez, another for city Councilman Jim Boucher.
"She said to me, `This is how you vote,'" Helddon said. "I said, `You can't do that. You can't tell people how to vote.'"
Helddon said she recognized that the poll worker was trying to be friendly and to explain the new voting system. But it didn't sit well with her that the sample ballots she was shown already had some bubbles filled in. She said she planned to file a complaint.
Barbara Silva ran the polling place, and she said Helddon misunderstood.
"She took it all the wrong way," Silva said. "It's not like we're picking a name and coloring it in, it's just showing them how you have to do it."
Silva said some people were marking an X in the circle instead of filling it in, while others were putting in extra circles.
"They are trained to educate a voter how to mark the ballot," Surgeon said.
Contact Steven Goode at email@example.com.
A portion of an Associated Press report was included in this story.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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