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October 24, 2006
The Washington Post reported Tuesday that a computer glitch in voting machines manufactured by Hart InterCivic of Austin, Texas and used by three Virginia jurisdictions caused candidates with long names to be cut short.
U.S. Senate candidate James Webb's last name was cut off on part of the electronic ballot used by voters in Alexandria, Falls Church and Charlottesville. City officials said the problem also affects other candidates with long names and cannot be fixed by November 7.
Election officials said the error only shows up on the summary page but may cause some confusion for voters when they are asked to review their selections before pressing the button to caste their votes.
Officials are attributing the problem to an increase in the type size on the ballot. The larger type makes the ballot easier to read on the machine's screen but unintentionally shortened longer names on the summary page.
For example, Democratic candidate Webb's name will only appear as "James H. 'Jim'" on the machines summary page.
Webb spokeswoman Kristian Denny Todd told Post reporters, "We're not happy about it," adding that the campaign learned about the problem a week ago and has since been in touch with state election officials. "I don't think it can be remedied by Election Day. Obviously, that's a concern."
Every candidate has been affected. Candidates with shorter names appear in full but the party affiliation has been cut off.
Jean Jensen, secretary of the Virginia State Board of Elections, said she only recently became aware of the problem but pledged to have it fixed by the 2007 statewide elections.
She said. "If I have to personally get on a plane and bring Hart InterCivic people here myself, it'll be corrected."
Election officials in Alexandria said this has been a problem since they purchased the voting machines in 2003.
Independent candidate James T. "Jim" Hurysz, who's running to unseat incumbent Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.) said, "That situation is not acceptable. There's enough voter confusion as it is." His name has been shortened on the summary page to "James T. 'Jim.' "
According to Jensen Hart InterCivic has created an upgrade for their program and has applied for state certification to apply the fix.
"The newer voting systems will not be certified and installed before the Nov. 7 election," said company Vice President Phillip Braithwaite. Hart InterCivic "does intend to install the newer system version before the next major election in 2007, assuming certification from the commonwealth."
In the meantime, election officials have been forced to post signs in voting booths and instruct poll workers to explain why some longer names appear cut-off.
Three years ago, Alexandria purchased about 225 Hart InterCivic machines for $750,000.
According to Sheri Iachetta, general registrar for Charlottesville, they have had problems with displaying long names ever since the city bought 72 machines in 2002.