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Saturday, October 30, 2010

North Carolina GOP Wins Voter Fraud Alert Case!

Touch-Screen Voters In North Carolina Will Be Alerted Prior To Casting Ballots

Voters who use ATM-style machines to cast ballots in Tuesday's election will be asked to read a notice instructing them to carefully review their selections and make sure they register correctly, a Federal Judge ordered Saturday.

U.S. District Court Judge Malcolm Howard ordered the North Carolina State Board of Elections and its executive director, Gary Bartlett, to have all Poll Workers tell each voter using the touch screens to read the alert, then ask to be notified of problems.

All precincts using the ATM-style devises must keep logs of complaints and how they're resolved.

Howard's order settles a Republican Lawsuit against the North Carolina State Board of Elections over voting equipment the party contends is unreliable, often erroneously casting votes for Democrats.

State elections officials say the machines work and voters are aware that they should make sure their ballots are correct before they cast them.

Howard held a rare Saturday hearing - he said it was his first in two decades - to resolve the complaint before Election Day. Twenty-three counties will use touch-screen machines for voting Tuesday; none are in the Triangle.

Thomas Farr, the lawyer representing N.C. State GOP Chairman Tom Fetzer and local party officials and voters, said Bartlett knew of the touch-screen machine problems for weeks but did not do enough to remedy them.

The two sides offered vastly different assessments of the touch-screen iVotronic.

Farr said the machines caused widespread problems during the early voting period that ended Saturday.

After the hearing, Johnnie McLean, the state elections board deputy director, said the equipment works well.

"We have every confidence in the voting system that North Carolina has," she said. "I've seen no evidence that we should feel differently."

The GOP Lawsuit gave examples of voters who said they had to correct their ballots three times to cast their votes for Republicans, as they intended, rather than Democrats. The order doesn't get to the root of the problem of unreliable equipment, Farr said, but may result in voters examining their ballots carefully.

Susan Nichols, a special deputy Attorney General representing Bartlett and the elections board, told Howard an order was not necessary because Bartlett had already done, or planned to do, everything it instructed.

Elections board members don't want to imply "there are widespread problems not being addressed by the elections administration," she said.

Farr wanted the public notices to state the extra vigilance was required under a Federal court order. Nichols resisted, saying the board was worried about creating an impression that the elections had been taken over by a federal judge.

The voter alerts will not include information about Howard requiring them.

North Carolina GOP Files Suit Over Touch-Screen Voting Machines

The North Carolina Republican Party on Friday filed a federal lawsuit over concerns about the operation of touch-screen Voting machines.

Party Chairman Tom Fetzer said Thursday that the GOP has received several complaints from voters trying to vote a straight Republican ticket that the touch-screen machines recorded their votes as a straight Democratic ticket.

"These machines have a history of being problematic," he said.

He said he suspects the error occurs when the screen is unsure of what the voter pressed.

"The voter's vote is defaulted to the top line, which in most instances is the Democratic line on the ballot," he said.

Johnnie McLean, deputy director of the North Carolina State Board of Elections, said there is no default for the machines, which she said are recalibrated every morning to ensure they're working properly.

Thirty-five counties are using touch-screen machines for early voting, including Mecklenburg and Guilford.

Fetzer didn't say how many complaints have been lodged or where the voters lived.

McLean said the elections board has received "isolated" complaints from New Hanover and Craven counties. Some complaints are from Democrats who said the machines recorded their votes incorrectly for Republicans.

"We don't see a widespread issue," she said.

Fetzer said he wants warnings posted at the polls to alert voters of the potential problem. He also wants poll workers to retain daily printouts of vote totals to compare later with the tabulations provided by the touch-screen machines and to retain records of all complaints about the machines.

"We're not satisfied at all with the State Board of Elections' response to date," he said. "It's an incompetence situation at the State Board of Elections."

Andrew Whalen, executive director of the North Carolina Democratic Party, called Fetzer's allegations of voting improprieties "reckless and absurd."

"I can only assume he is trying to lay a groundwork of excuses for his party’s upcoming electoral failures or attempting to suppress turnout by alleging fraud when there is no evidence of it," Whalen said in a statement.

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Sources: McClatchy Newspapers, WRAL, Google Maps

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