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Gov. Bush extends voting in Florida primary

New electronic machines malfunction

Poll workers remove a voting machine from service at a Miami precinct Tuesday because of technical difficulties.
Poll workers remove a voting machine from service at a Miami precinct Tuesday because of technical difficulties.  

MIAMI (CNN) -- Two years after problems with punch-card voting machines put Florida in the international spotlight, many state voters experienced delays and confusion Tuesday in the first major test of new electronic voting machines.

Gov. Jeb Bush ordered polls for the primary election to stay open two additional hours, until 9 p.m., after malfunctioning technology caused long waits at polling areas, primarily in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

Also, in some precincts, poll workers didn't show up. Some polling places in Broward County reported no workers and no working machines.

Janet Reno, the former U.S. attorney general locked in a tight race for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, waited more than an hour to vote. She later called on Bush to extend voting hours, as did Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas.

In numerous polling places, the new touch screen machines didn't start up, and it took several hours in some locations to get them working. In one predominately black precinct in Miami, polls didn't open until lunchtime; in Miami Beach, some voters waited more than 90 minutes.

"We spent a lot of time trying to rectify the problems we had in the 2000 elections. It's a little disappointing to see some of the problems that are cropping up," said state Sen. Daryl Jones, a Democratic candidate for governor who served on a election reform task force.

In 2000, problems with the punch card voting systems, used in many of the state's largest counties, kept the presidential race in dispute for weeks. In response, the Florida Legislature undertook a major reform of the elections process, including replacing the punch-card machines with electronic systems.

Elections officials had warned voters to expect some initial difficulties with the new technology. Once they actually got to use the machines, though, many voters had praise for the new touch-screen machines.

And in the county at the heart of the 2000 dispute, Palm Beach, there were no reported problems with the new system.

In the day's most-watched contest, polls show Reno locked in a tight race with Bill McBride for the right to take on Republican Bush in November. In Miami-Dade County, voters were also deciding whether to repeal an ordinance prohibiting discrimination against gays and lesbians in housing and unemployment.

And Republican voters in the Sarasota area were deciding whether to nominate former Secretary of State Katherine Harris, who was at the center of the 2000 controversy, for a seat in Congress.

--CNN Miami Bureau Chief John Zarrella contributed to this report.




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