A report in the El Paso Times newspaper Friday said that early voters in at least eight Texas counties are telling election officials that e-voting machines are initially switching their votes to the wrong candidates.
The report said that voters are alleging that their votes are being switched to Republican John McCain when they try to press the selection on touchscreen machines to cast ballots for Democrat Barack Obama.
The complaints were first publicized by non-profit watchdog group, the Texas Civil Rights Project, according to the newspaper.
"Voters have reported, for example, that when they tried to vote a straight-party Democratic ticket, the machine flipped their choices to Republican candidates instead," Jim Harrington, the organization's statewide director, said in a press release. "In some cases, voters reported a problem only with the presidential race. In other cases, voters reported the entire ballot being marked Republican by the machine. It's happening when people vote for Barack Obama; the machine flips the votes over to John McCain."
El Paso County Elections Administrator Javier Chacon, however, denied that the problem is occurring with the e-voting machines. In a response to the newspaper, Chacon reportedly acknowledged that an e-mail is circulating regarding allegations that a voter who selects Obama on the touchscreen ballot activates a red square that stands for the Republican Party on the machine. The e-mail, he told the paper, is simply wrong.
"There is no flipping going on," Chacon said. "The red square does not stand for the Republican Party. We've had people who complained about voting for a candidate and the machine showing a different one, but this stems from people who touch the screen in between the ballot selections instead of right on the square. They were able to vote correctly once they asked for help. Ladies with long fingernails and jewelry that touches the screen also can have this kind of problem."
Chacon told the newspaper that "the intensity of the election may be spurring conspiracy suspicions in some voters."
The eight Texas counties that were involved in the reports are Collin, Dallas, El Paso, Galveston, Harris, Jefferson, Travis and Palo Pinto, according to the newspaper.
Similar allegations have recently been made in other states, including West Virginia, where voters also reported vote "flipping."
In each case, election officials have said that the problem is caused by miscalibrated machines or errant contact with the touchscreens by voters.