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Video shows touch-screen machine killing Obama vote -- or not

COMMENTARY

November 06, 2012|By James Rainey

A video showing a Pennsylvania voter apparently thwarted by a video touchscreen machine from voting for President Obama made the rounds across social media and blogs Tuesday, fanning overblown fears about balloting shenanigans on election day.

The video snippet shows the finger of a voter — identified only by the YouTube screen name “centralpavote” — three times touching the box next to Obama’s name. Each time, the space marked with Mitt Romney’s name blinks on and a check mark lands beside the Republican’s name.

Similar problems have been cited previously. As recently as last week, Republican early voters in North Carolina, Ohio and Kansas complained that their attempts to vote for Romney via touchscreen were hampered when the devices recorded votes for Obama.

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Manufacturers of the machines have previously said that such incidents can be caused by calibration problems — the touch area for each candidate is not properly aligned with his or her name. Voters who encounter such problems should notify poll workers. If the problem can’t be fixed, they should ask to use another machine.

The video’s popularity demonstrates a truth of the video age — isolated pieces of information can have an outsize impact on public perceptions. Particularly when video evidence points out a phenomenon, some in the audience accept it as proof of larger truths.

But there has been no demonstration that isolated glitches with touch screen machines have been intentionally caused. There have not even been verified accounts that more than a handful of voters confronted the calibration failures.

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Still, emails sailed across cyberspace Tuesday, with nervous Democrats persuaded someone was trying to game the election in Pennsylvania. Just last week the conservative website the Blaze featured similar fears from Republican voters, albeit without video evidence.

Breathe, people. There is no conspiracy afoot.

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James.rainey@latimes.com

Twitter: @latimesrainey

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