Voting machine glitches in Pulaski County fewer this year

The number of complaints about malfunctioning voting machines has dropped sharply in 2016 compared with previous years, according to Pulaski County Election Commission Director Bryan Poe.

But those casting early ballots are still encouraged to review their ballots carefully before submitting them, he added.

In 2014, the commission received numerous complaints from people claiming that the electronic machines were incorrectly recording their votes.

As of Thursday, only one voter had reported similar difficulties, Poe said.

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Kathy Cobb of Little Rock said she marked her choice for president Wednesday afternoon and discovered, upon review, that another candidate's name had been designated.

"It was not even a name I recognized," she said.

Cobb, who isn't announcing for whom she voted, said she summoned a poll worker who helped her revise her ballot.

Only the presidential vote was affected, she said.

"I'm still shaking mad because I'm positive it wasn't my mistake," she said. "The machine definitely was wrong."

Election officials in Pulaski County say they've re-calibrated the decade-old machines and are urging voters to review their ballots before submitting them. In addition, the machine prints the name of the candidates that have been selected, offering a voter an additional way to double check his votes.

With more than 60,000 ballots cast, most people haven't encountered difficulties, Poe said. Early voting started Oct. 24, and as of Thursday, 63,372 had voted in Pulaski County alone.

Anyone who discovers a problem should tell election officials immediately, he added.

On Tuesday, Election Day, most Pulaski County voters will cast paper ballots. The electronic machines are available for use by those who have disabilities, Poe said.

Complaints about malfunctioning electronic voting machines aren't new.

"We've seen this in the past couple of federal elections, at least," said Larry Norden, author of America's Voting Machines at Risk.

An official with the Brennan Center at New York University School of Law, Norden is an expert on electronic voting and the challenges posed by technology.

Often, when a problem arises, the voter is at fault, he said. A voter may lean over the machine and inadvertently touch the screen, for example, causing the vote to change.

Other times, the problem is the technology itself, he said.

"The machines that we're voting on are old. They were purchased long before iPhones and iPads even existed," he said.

The glitches, he said, don't indicate vote tampering: Someone seeking to rig an election wouldn't tip voters off that their choice of candidates has been changed.

"I don't think we have to fear widespread hacking of voting machines," he added.

Chris Powell, a spokesman for Secretary of State Mark Martin, said voters can have confidence in Arkansas' polling equipment.

"There's nothing programmed in the machine to flip your vote [to another candidate]," he said.

Thanks to the printouts and the review function, Arkansans have multiple opportunities to verify things before submitting a vote, he said..

"Check your ballot ... before hitting the button," Powell recommended.

Metro on 11/04/2016