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LETTERS TO THE TIMES

Mixed Reviews on Voting Electronically

March 06, 2004

My Orange County precinct used the e-voting machines. The poll workers did not know how to use the machines and did not know how to tell the voters how to use the machines. They were distributing wrong political party codes. Democrats were getting Republican voter codes and vice versa.

Voters were not informed how to switch from "candidate voting" to "issues" voting. Privacy was violated, as those in line could easily see the choices of the e-voting machine voters. E-voting machines were so close together you could see the adjacent voter's choices.

I hope all this gets fixed before November.

Annamarie Marcalus

Orange

Regarding your March 4 story, "Poll Workers Get Blame for Snafus in O.C." Humbug!

Out of almost 1,800 voters registered in our precinct, more than 600 exercised their right to vote in person on Tuesday. With the exception of three who mistakenly cast their ballot prematurely before indicating their preferences on the four ballot measures, more than 99% of the voters were properly issued the correct ballot and able to accurately enter all their choices on the eSlate. Representatives of both the equipment manufacturer and the registrar's office visited the precinct to ensure that all was running smoothly.

I believe that you owe our voters, the eight volunteer poll workers who each put in a 15-hour day on Tuesday after hours of training and preparation, plus the registrar's staff, an apology.

David S. Swan

Inspector, Precinct 53079

Corona del Mar

My wife has been a volunteer clerk at our local precinct for many years. As a retired electronic engineer, I was interested in the new electronic voting equipment and accompanied her to see the equipment at work and, if necessary, to help her with the setup.

The first setup, initialization of the equipment and printing of the so-called "zero tape" (which verifies that the internal poll counters are, indeed, set to zero) is not very complicated -- for an experienced electronics engineer who has worked with networked computer systems for many years. For a person not having computer experience, after only four hours of cursory training -- and following printed instructions that were confusing and, in at least one place, simply wrong -- it must have been extremely difficult.

Kudos to the many unnamed poll workers who did this job nevertheless. I was impressed with the voters, who adopted the new system easily and with few problems. One middle-aged lady came back from the voting station, smiling proudly and saying, "Cool!"

Erich A. Pfeiffer

Irvine

I am livid! I had just the other day said to someone in conversation that "my vote counts," and I truly felt that way. But my vote didn't count on election day. The touch-screen machine cast my ballot without my voting for any of the propositions.

The "Next Screen" button was replaced by the "Cast Ballot" button, which was the same color green and in the exact same place on the screen. I had used "Next Screen" multiple times to scroll through the whole ballot before I started to vote. (I did this because my screen ballot was not the same as my sample ballot, and I wanted to see what was and what wasn't on the screen ballot.) Then I started by voting for the candidates and reviewed them by pressing "Summary" to see if all was correct. I was now ready to move on to the propositions.

Then it happened! That is, the "Cast Ballot" button appeared in place of the "Next Screen" button. My mind saw the wording "Cast Ballot" at the last millisecond, but it was too late. My finger had already grazed the screen. The ballot was permanently gone without my voting for the propositions. Someone later suggested that one cannot use the "Summary" in the middle of voting; this was not made clear.

Joe Barth

La Mesa

In Los Angeles County, when I went to vote at the designated address, that business had closed and a piece of paper taped to the window gave an address for the new polling place. When I arrived there, I was told that it had been moved to yet another address but I could vote "provisionally." My wife went to the third address and still had to vote provisionally.

So I voted but was given a receipt for provisional voting and told to call "not sooner than 40 days" to find out if my vote had been counted. Since our whole precinct had been moved several times, I am sure that many people just gave up and didn't vote.

I can't be sure that any of these provisional votes counted, yet victory is declared in all of these races. Voting may be one of the foundations of democracy in the United States, but it appears that forces are eroding it rapidly.

Misha Askren

Los Angeles

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