October 24, 2006

Perhaps They Should Have Tested More - Hart InterCivic

Virginia Ballot Glitch Chops Names

By Associated Press

October 24, 2006, 1:35 PM EDT

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- U.S. Senate candidate James H. "Jim" Webb has lost his last name on electronic ballots in three Virginia cities where election computers can't cope with long names.

The glitch in Alexandria, Falls Church and Charlottesville also affects other candidates with long names, officials said.

Webb, a Democrat, appears with his full name on the ballot page where voters make their choices. The error -- referring to him only as James H. "Jim" -- shows up on a summary page, where voters are supposed to review their selections.

Election officials emphasized that the problem shouldn't cause votes to be cast incorrectly, though it might cause some confusion.

The mistake stems from the ballots' larger type size, election officials said.

It affects only the three jurisdictions that use balloting machines manufactured by Hart InterCivic of Austin, Texas.

"We're not happy about it," Webb spokeswoman Kristian Denny Todd told The Washington Post, adding that the campaign learned about the problem one week ago. "I don't think it can be remedied by Election Day. Obviously, that's a concern."

Every candidate on Alexandria's summary page has been affected in some way. Even if their full names appear, as is the case with Webb's Republican opponent, incumbent Sen. George F. Allen, their party affiliations have been cut off.

Jean Jensen, secretary of the Virginia State Board of Elections, pledged to have the issue fixed by the 2007 statewide elections.

"If I have to personally get on a plane and bring Hart InterCivic people here myself, it'll be corrected," Jensen said.

Hart InterCivic officials said Monday they intend to correct the problem by next fall. Jensen said Hart InterCivic already has written a software upgrade and recently applied for state certification to apply the fix, but the installation process can be time-consuming because of security measures.

In the meantime, Jensen said, the three affected jurisdictions have started educating voters and will place notices in each polling booth to explain the summary page problem.

Copyright 2006 Newsday Inc.