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Jim McKay

Jim McKay

Posted: October 21, 2008 09:25 AM

Voters in W.Va. Say Electronic Voting Machines Switched their Obama Votes to McCain


According to multiple news reports, voters in West Virginia say that electronic voting machines changed their votes from Barack Obama to John McCain when they cast their ballots during early voting last week.

Voters in Jackson and Putnam counties have related experiences that when attempting to vote for Senator Obama and other Democratic nominees, including Sen. Jay Rockefeller who is seeking reelection, the electronic voting machine placed the check mark next to the Republican nominee.

As Paul Nyden reports in the Charleston Gazette:

Shelba Ketchum, a 69-year-old nurse retired from Thomas Memorial Hospital, described what happened Friday at the Putnam County Courthouse in Winfield.

"I pushed buttons and they all came up Republican," she said. "I hit Obama and it switched to McCain. I am really concerned about that. If McCain wins, there was something wrong with the machines.

"I asked them for a printout of my votes," Ketchum said. "But they said it was in the machine and I could not get it. I did not feel right when I left the courthouse. My son felt the same way.

"I heard from some other people; they also had trouble. But no one in there knew how to fix it," said Ketchum, who is not related to Menis Ketchum, a Democratic Supreme Court candidate.

Ketchum's son, Chris, said he had the same problem. And Bobbi Oates of Scott Depot said her vote for incumbent Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller was switched to GOP opponent Jay Wolfe.

"I touched the one I wanted, Rockefeller, and the machine put a checkmark on the Republican instead," Oates said of her experience Thursday.

Republicans who oversee elections in both counties blamed voters for not being more careful when casting their ballots. "People make mistakes more than machines," said Jackson County Clerk Jeff Waybright.

Nyden also reports that Jackson County voters had similar experiences last week:

Virginia Matheney, one of those voters, said Friday, "When I touched the screen for Barack Obama, the check mark moved from his box to the box indicating a vote for John McCain."

Retired factory worker Calvin Thomas of Ripley said he experienced the same problem.

"When I pushed Obama, it jumped to McCain. When I went down to governor's office and punched [Gov. Joe] Manchin, it went to the other dude.

"After I finished, my daughter voted. When she pushed Obama, it went to McCain. It happened to her the same way it happened to me," Thomas said.

As unconfirmed reports of additional voting machine errors are coming in from Berkeley County, West Virginia's Secretary of State Betty Ireland (Rep.) denies that any shenanigans are occurring.

Sec. Ireland noted that the machines are programmed by Casto & Harris and not by county clerks or members of her office. Ireland said Casto & Harris "has been working with clerks for 35 years in West Virginia to handle our election matters". According to Ireland, a technician will visit both counties to double check the machines.

Sec. Ireland cited potential problems with how the machines are calibrated as they are set-up after being moved from storage. She also reiterated comments from the Jackson and Putnam County Clerks that voters may have touched the wrong part of the touch screen.

(There was no word whether "the wrong part" was actually the check boxes next to the Democratic nominees.)

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