Update: Secretary of state office says there are few voting machine problems

Republicans charge that voting machines around Minnesota are breaking down in large numbers and demand the situation be fixed immediately, but the state’s elections office reports only minor problems through late afternoon.

Vote counting was temporarily halted in a few cases, such as when electrical power went off to one polling place and an infant in its mother’s arms dropped something in another machine.

Secretary of state attorney Bert Black reported that after the office contacted several local elections officials that no major problems were found.

“As you know from past experience, voting machines experience minor issues from time to time that do not disenfranchise voters but that require election judges and officials to take action,” Black wrote to a Republican Party attorney. “This is not new in the election process.”

Most Republican reports of machine problems came from the Twin Cities, but Duluth and Olmstead County also were listed as trouble spots.

Republican attorney Tony Trimble wrote to Secretary of State Mark Ritchie this afternoon that the break-downs are causing ballots to pile up and not being counted promptly. His letter charged that stacks of ballots mean they are not being stored securely.

“We request that your office take immediate action to secure the integrity and safety of these ballots and voting machines,” Trimble wrote, proposing that uncounted ballots be placed in envelopes initialed by election judges from two political parties until the machines can count them.

Black wrote about each Republican report of a voting machine problem and in each instance said they were small issues that were fixed soon, sometimes after just one ballot. In one case, local elections officials reported there was no problem, despite the GOP reporting that there was.

Democratic-Farmer-Laborite leaders called the GOP comments desperate and false.

Republican Party Chairman Tony Sutton said that when a machine is down, a voter leaves the polling place not knowing if his ballot will be accepted. It is possible that once the ballot is fed into a working machine that it will be rejected; had the voter been there, he could have fixed the mistake and case a valid ballot.

Sutton said the party has received “dozens” of reports of voting machine failures.

Deputy GOP Chairman Michael Brodkorb said one of the reports of machine failure came from former Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer, now a state representative, after she voted.

Before the election, Republicans and the conservative group Election Integrity Watch pledged to send volunteers to polling places around the state to watch for potential voter fraud. They support a law change to require Minnesotans to show photo identification before voting.

Sutton said the attorney’s letter this afternoon was laying groundwork for a possible court action if the party determines that is needed after the election.

Some Republicans blame U.S. Sen.  Norm Coleman’s 2008 re-election loss to Democrat Al Franken on Ritchie and pledged this year to keep a closer eye on the election.

Besides the GOP complaints, few problems were reported in Minnesota voting today. News accounts from various parts of the state showed a spotty turnout.

Ritchie had predicted 2.1 million votes will be cast, down from 2.9 million in the presidential election two years ago.

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