With two weeks to go before the presidential election, early voting is underway across the nation as voters in many states are able to cast their ballots before Election Day and avoid the long lines expected on Nov. 4.
Thirty-one states, including California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Texas and West Virginia, allow voters to go to the polls in person before Election Dday to cast their ballots, according to the Early Voting Information Center at Reed College in Portland, Ore.
Three states, Kentucky, Minnesota and Virginia, plus the District of Columbia, also allow early voting, but require voters to give a reason for why they wouldn't be able to vote on Election Day .
Among the benefits of early voting are reducing the crush of voters on Nov. 4, when turn out is expected to be high, as well as giving states a chance to double-check their Election Day processes ahead of time.
In at least one of those states, West Virginia, two voters said they had problems with electronic touchscreen voting machines when they cast their ballots on Friday, but the issues were eventually resolved.
Barbara "Bobbi" Oates, a retired West Virginia state Tax Department official from Scott Depot, W.V., and Calvin Thomas, a retired machine operator from Ripley, W.V., said the iVotronic machines they used apparently "switched" their selections from the candidates they chose to the opposing candidates in some of the races, causing them to ask election officials for assistance.
"It did switch my vote," Oates said. "I corrected it. I touched my [candidate's name on the ballot screen] and it switched to the candidate in the other party."
A poll worker showed Oates how to deselect the incorrect candidate and change it to the correct selection, she said, but Oates was worried that other voters might not know to ask about such a problem. "What concerned me is that people are not computer savvy" and wouldn't know to ask, she said. "I think this election is very crucial and you want the person you voted for to get your vote."
Thomas, 81, said he also was concerned about how other voters potentially could be affected if they didn't know to check their candidate selections before finalizing their ballots.
Thomas said he has vision problems, and took his daughter with him in case he need help casting his ballot. "I've been a registered Republican all my life," Thomas said. "This election, I'm voting Democratic. We pushed [Barack] Obama [on the touch screen] and when we pushed Obama, it jumped up to [Republican presidential candidate John} McCain . It did the same for the governor's race." The same problem occurred when his daughter voted, Thomas said.
Thomas and his daughter asked election officials for help and were able to correct their selections, he said.
Election officials in both counties said they responded to the reports from Thomas and Oates by checking and recalibrating the e-voting machines at those polling places to be sure they were operating correctly. The machines are calibrated to ensure that the part of the screen where a voter's fingertip touches is in just the right spot to tally a vote for that candidate.
Jeff Waybright, the clerk of Jackson County, where Thomas cast his ballot, said the machines checked out fine. "I don't know for sure what happened because I wasn't there, but all the tests we've done" show the devices are working properly, he said.