Ocean County Observer
Posted by the Ocean County Observer on 11/10/06
BY DON BENNETT, STAFF WRITER
TOMS RIVER — All of the electronic voting machines used in the mid-term election in Ocean County will be rechecked Tuesday after a suspected "software glitch" counted 75 votes in both Barnegat and Lakewood for state and county candidates.
At an emergency meeting yesterday, the county's Board of Elections authorized the attorney general to ask a judge to order the recheck. A complaint had already been prepared by the attorney general's office, and was enroute to Superior Court Judge Joseph Foster by mid-afternoon, said George Gilmore, the chairman of the board and Ocean's Republican County Committee.
Although the Sequoia electronic machines were used in 18 of the state's largest counties and in many states across the country Tuesday, Gilmore said the only "glitch" reported to the company he was aware of was the one involving the Lakewood and Barnegat vote totals.
The outcome of no race was changed, he said, just the margin by which candidates won or lost.
The software used this year was new, so earphones could be used to assure the machines were voting.
A new software package has been certified by the federal government, and is awaiting state certification.
But Lakewood Rabbi Yisroel Schenkolewski, a Republican commissioner on the board, wants the version of the software used this year fixed if it is found to be to blame for the double counting of the Barnegat votes.
During the probe that led to the recheck request, he said the Election Board staff found that municipal clerks could have accessed the results before they were processed by the Board of Elections.
"That part scares me more than the first part," he said.
Robert Giles, the Republican supervisor for the board, said the clerks have never accessed the results, and were unaware they could have., Nonetheless, the board is asking Sequoia to cut off that access in its software.
Schenkolewski said there are "checks and balances," at the Election Board, where Republicans and Democrats watch one another as the totals are recorded from electronic voting machine cartridges.
There are none of those safeguards in municipal offices, he said.
Security is another concern, he said.
Gilmore said at the first sign of a problem late Tuesday night he called Dover Township Police Chief Michael Mastronardy. who posted an officer around the clock at the board office.
Freeholder John P. Kelly said the county will pay for that detail and the cost of the recheck Tuesday.
Secretary-Commissioner Al Santoro, a Democrat, said every candidate will be notified of Tuesday's recheck so they can witness it.
"We'll hand carry notices to them, if we have to," he said.
Gilmore said the board's staff had rechecked the results once, and again found only the problem was that the Barnegat votes from District 10 were showing up in Lakewood's 25th District.
Is the recheck an "overreaction?"
"The integrity of the election process is the bedrock of our country," he replied.
"It's a software glitch, we believe," Schenkolewski insisted.
"The problem has to be fixed," he added.
Barnegat was among five communities with razor thin margins among candidates for local office, but those races were apparently not impacted by the suspected software, according to board members.
Gilmore said he expects recounts in all five communities. In addition to Barnegat they are Tuckerton, Seaside Park, South Toms River, and Lavallette.
"We want the public to have full confidence," that all the votes were counted for the right candidates, Gilmore said.
Gilmore praised the Election Board staff and the attorney general for their efforts to get to the bottom of the problem.
"They were extremely helpful," Gilmore said.
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