Texans wary of touch-screen

DALLAS — Americans are closely watching the computerized voting machines that are expected to record one-third of the votes in the presidential election.

The Austin Chronicle reported that some voters in Austin, Texas, who tried to vote straight Democratic, had their presidential vote changed to George W. Bush by the machines. If straight Democratic ticket voters in Austin tried to skip a referendum on the bottom of the ballot, or didn’t realize it was there, the machine automatically changed their vote to a vote for Bush, according to the Chronicle.

In Arlington, near Dallas, a referendum favoring a new stadium for the Dallas Cowboys tended to disappear from the on-screen presentation. Some voters had to scroll backwards to find it.

At the same time, initial returns from Texas’ early voting period, which began Oct.18, point to a record turnout. The Texas AFL-CIO reported that a total of 144,598 people voted on the first day in the 15 largest counties, an increase of 70 percent over the comparable figure for early voters in the last presidential race.

Still, distrust of the touch-screen, computerized ballot process being used in some of the early voting may have deterred some voters from going to the polls. On Election Day in Dallas County, regular paper ballots will be used; consequently, some progressive activists have encouraged people to skip early voting and wait until Nov. 2 to cast their ballot.

Before Florida in 2000, most voters had confidence in the validity of the voting procedure. Now they are not so sure. The owner of Diebold, Inc., of Sherman, Texas, the largest manufacturer of the computerized voting machines, is a major Bush supporter. That connection to Bush and the lack of a paper trail for some machines has made many voters wary.

The author can be reached at flittle7@yahoo.com. Paul Hill contributed to this story.