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Voting-machine maker denies GOP claim

November 2, 2010 

The manufacturer of North Carolina's touch-screen voting machines says the devices can't be programmed to default votes to Democrats, as alleged last week by Tom Fetzer, the state Republican Party chairman.

Adam Carbullido, the director of consumer service for the firm, ES&S, said in a letter to the State Board of Elections that the iVotronic machine used in a few dozen North Carolina counties "has no capability or coding mechanism that would allow the system to default to any specific selection, whether it is a candidate or party."

Fetzer said Thursday that the GOP is compiling written statements from voters who said they tried to vote a straight-ticket Republican ballot, only to see their votes tallied on a final review screen as being casts for Democrats. He said the problem appears to occur when the touch screen is unsure of a voter's selection, after which it is programmed to assign the vote to the first candidate listed in the race.

Democrats are listed before Republicans on the electronic ballots and therefore get the vote, Fetzer said. State election officials, and now ES&S, say that Fetzer's allegation is simply untrue.

Carbullido pointed out that the voting machines, like all touch-screen devices, must be calibrated to accurately detect the voter's selection and that voters are prompted to confirm their selections at the end of the process before the ballots are cast.

The controversy prompted the GOP to file a lawsuit. On Saturday, a federal judge ruled that people who vote using devices similar to automated teller machines in Tuesday's election will be asked to read a notice instructing them to carefully review their selections and make sure their selections register correctly.

Whom do you blame?

Most North Carolina voters blame the recession on the government rather than business, according to a new poll.

In a survey taken for the conservative Civitas Institute, 64 percent of registered voters said they think government is responsible for the recession, 22 percent think business is responsible, and 14 percent were not sure.

That is a 10-point increase since two years ago, when 54 percent blamed government for the financial crisis.

The poll of 600 likely voters was conducted Oct. 18-20 by Tel Opinion Research of Alexandria, Va., and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The spin: "The political atmosphere for those in charge has been toxic for the last year,'' said Francis De Luca of the Civitas Institute. "These numbers are just one more sign that voters have decided who to blame."

Moving up at DMV

The state's Division of Motor Vehicles has two new deputy commissioners.

Ronald G. Kaylor Jr. and Johanna H. Reese were appointed deputy commissioners. The appointments were announced last week.

Kaylor, who has served as director of the DMV License and Theft Bureau since June 2009, was deputy director for operations for the Alcohol Law Enforcement division before coming to DMV. He is a 23-year law enforcement veteran.

Since May 2006, Reese served as legislative liaison for the state Department of Transportation. Prior to that, she was legislative affairs director for the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Kaylor will oversee the DMV's License and Theft Bureau and the Hearings and Adjudication section. Reese will oversee Driver Services, Vehicle Services and Operations sections. They began their jobs this week.

By staff writers Michael Biesecker, Rob Christensen, Lynn Bonner and Jane Stancill

michael.biesecker@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4698

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