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Needham Struggles with Ballot Box Breakdowns

The different-sized special town and state ballots appear to be jamming in some of the machines, delaying the process at some precincts.

Needham's two ballots appear to be causing some problems with ballot boxes at some of the town's precincts.

By 2 p.m. on Election Day, at least three ballot machines had malfunctioned, Town Clerk Tedi Eaton said.

“We’ve had a lot of problems. Precinct H was down—we got that up and running. A had a problem—we got that up and running. G, I’m waiting for them to come from my vendor with another machine, so that one’s down,” she said. 

Eaton said part of the problem appeared to be the fact that two different sized ballots were being fed into the machines. The ballot for Needham's special election is the size of a regular piece of computer paper, while the state ballot is much longer.

“One’s this size and one’s this size, and people are trying to put them in together,” Eaton said.

The machines had to be restarted from zero and the ballots fed again once they were up and running, Eaton said.

Despite the technical issues, the long lines at all of Needham’s 10 precincts appeared to be moving quickly.

“We have huge turnout, which is wonderful—but Needham always has a huge turnout for the national election,” Eaton said.

A complete count wasn’t available at 2 p.m. because of the machine breakdowns, but voter turnout was well over 500 at most of the precincts by noon.

“There are so many people voting. The lines have never stopped,” Eaton said. “[The poll wardens] are having trouble sending their workers to get a lunch break.”

Eaton said her office had processed a total of 5,144 absentee ballots for the 2012 election in Needham—including both special town and state elections. That amounts to roughly 2,572 residents voting absentee this year.

“In 2008, we processed 2,350 [absentee ballots],” she said.

Overall, Eaton estimated voter turnout in Needham was “a little higher” than the presidential election in 2008.

As of the last count, there were 20,490 registered voters in the town of Needham, Eaton said.

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