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Pa. machine that switched presidential votes repaired, back online

| Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, 3:20 p.m.

Election officials in a Central Pennsylvania county fixed a malfunctioning voting machine that was the subject of a viral Election Day Internet video , the Perry County chief clerk said Tuesday afternoon.

Millerstown had a machine that registered votes for the Mitt Romney presidential ticket that were intended for President Obama, as shown on a YouTube video. County officials received a phone call about the machine just after 9 a.m., canceled and fixed the incorrect vote and recalibrated the machine, Chief Clerk Kathy Burkholder said. They believe it was miscalibrated by accident, she added.

“It was a one-time thing so far,” she said.

There were a few scattered complaints of problems with confusion over the voter identification law, voter intimidation in Philadelphia and long lines, said Ron Ruman, spokesman for the Department of State. He described the issues as “typical for Election Day.” Even the voting machine glitch is something that happens sometimes, he said.

“Look, they're electronic machines. Errors can happen, but they are very, very rare,” Ruman said. “Usually it's something that can be fixed easily.”

The machine in the video appears to be an iVotronic, the same type of machine used in Allegheny, Beaver, Butler and Westmoreland counties, experts who saw the video said. Because of its poor security features, critics have savaged the machines in recent years with one Penn State study concluding they were “insufficient to guarantee a trustworthy election” in Ohio.

The touch-screen machines can be vulnerable to wear and tear, programming problems or losing their bearings from transit between warehouses and polling places, experts said. If the calibration is off — maybe from a bump during transit or routine wear — the touch screen may improperly register where the voter touches.

“As touch screens age and are pounded by worked-up voters they can develop bad spots that either fail to record a vote or short circuit,” said Collin Lynch, a researcher who studies artificial intelligence and law at the University of Pittsburgh and was formerly the president of VoteAllegheny. “This is why voters should never leave the booth until they are sure and should not accept a disinterested poll-worker's response.”

Timothy Puko is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7991 or tpuko@tribweb.com.

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