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Tabulator malfunction in McKenzie leaves long line of Calgary Olympic voters

Lines at some of Calgary’s Olympic plebiscite advanced polling stations were long, but in one southeast location it may have been unnecessarily so.

Earlier this week, the City of Calgary’s election officials demonstrated electronic tabulators to be used for the plebiscite, the machine’s first use in the city’s voting history.

Electronic tabulators are touted for their expediency in calculating results at the end of the night, but a snafu in McKenzie left dozens waiting to cast their ballots and dozens of others frustrated because it kept rejecting the ballots.

The city confirmed they were addressing the issue.

Eager voter Joey Oberhoffner was at the McKenzie location and sent out a series of tweets about the issue. Afterwards, he talked to LiveWire about the situation.

He said walking into the voting location there were enough election volunteers.

“They were fantastic, they were calm, they knew what to do and where to send us,” Oberhoffner said.

“After marking the ballot, there was a hundred-people standing in line to put their ballots into this new tabulation machine.”

He said in some cases the tabulator worked in the slick fashion as had been advertised, but in other cases it would take five minutes or longer to get the ballot through the machine.

Oberhoffner said that judging by the voter in front of him, the ballot reader was only pulling the ballot about two inches into the feeder where the pre-printed information was, then saying the data was unreadable. So, it didn’t get to the actual ballot response.

To his knowledge, voters simply stayed until their ballot was counted, so no one left without voting.

The city couldn’t specify the exact issue as City of Calgary returning officer Laura Kennedy was travelling to different polling stations. An emailed statement from city media relations indicated help was on the way.

“We have deployed additional resources to this voting station and are working to get people though the voting process in a timely manner,” a statement read.

Oberhoffner said he’s fine with the tabulators being used, rather than going to an online vote, but he was surprised to see only one machine at the location.

“I think the machine is fine. But maybe it’s the process they need to look a little closer at,” he said.

He thinks they could have allowed people to drop off their ballot like a traditional vote and then the ballots could have been collected and fed through the machine by elections staff after.

Follow up questions to clarify the tabulator issue were sent to the city, and a response hadn’t yet been provided. It’s also unclear if there were similar issues at other voting locations.