Originally created 11/06/02

Electronic voting system runs smoothly



Georgia's new electronic voting machines seemed to work fine Tuesday - once voters navigated long lines to the polls.

"I like 'em, they're easy," declared Tanya Williams of Augusta, who joined fellow Georgians in Tuesday's inaugural use of the state's $54 million touch-voting system.

The computerized machines, which replaced traditional punch-ballots, are designed to speed up the voting process and make it easier for voters to correct mistakes and recheck ballots before the machine records their choices.

Richmond County polls were clogged with voters from opening to closing, and officials reported that a few malfunctioning machines were re-booted and put back in service.

Two hours after polls had closed in Georgia, Augusta had only one precinct - from Peabody Apartments - reporting results. At the same time, Savannah's Chatham County had more than half - 55 percent - of its precincts reporting, and Athens-Clarke County was reporting results from 17 percent of its precincts.

In Columbia County, where polls were packed with a near-record turnout, poll workers reported only minor problems with the machines, said Deborah Marshall, the executive director of the Board of Elections.

"We had situations in three of the precincts where people pushed in the access cards above the slot, and they jammed," she said. "Other than that, they're working fine."

The performance of the new machines was less of an issue in Columbia County than the quantity of voting machines.

In May, Ms. Marshall asked commissioners to buy more voting machines to supplement the 246 paid for by the state. "We normally use more than 400 machines, and we've had close to 500 for presidential races," she said.

Commissioners opted to wait before considering the additional purchases, so voters at some precincts Tuesday had longer than usual waits.

"At Wesley (United Methodist Church) we usually have 18 machines, and they have 10 today," Mr. Marshall said. "Greenbrier High School has six, and they usually have 15."

Despite the long lines, voters made the best of Tuesday's drizzly weather and enjoyed visiting and gossiping while waiting to try out the new technology.

"This is the most people I've seen here since I moved to Evans," said David Usry, who waited almost 40 minutes at Evans Elementary before trying his hand at the touch-voting machines.

Reach Robert Pavey at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 119, or rpavey@augustachronicle.com.