Computer shutdown snarls early voting

For hours Friday morning, the computer network that enables poll workers to verify that you are who you say you are was down.  It meant they had to do it the old fashioned way and that meant a slowdown for many who took the day off to early-vote.

By mid-afternoon, Raymon Brooks was on his second visit of the day to this Germantown polling place.  "They wonder why people don't vote and then they make it so hard for people to vote," he said.

Brooks - and many others - were victims of bad timing.  For hours this morning, voters at every single polling station in Shelby County were told they'd have to wait or encouraged to come back later.

"They would tell us that the computers were up and then they were down.  And then they were voting manually, with pencils and then that went down, so we left," said Brooks.

John Zanella - who tried to vote at Agricenter - gave up after forty minutes.  "They let us in at 10 o'clock to allow us to come into the air conditioning.  But a half hour later, they still had problems," he explained.

Elections Administrator James Johnson told us the new voting machines themselves were fine, but that the computers used to verify voters before they vote couldn't connect to the mainframe.  It meant massive, immediate delays as poll workers were forced to call in each voter to the main office.

Johnson asked voters for patience.  "I know there are people out there who've taken off," he said.  "They got to go to work and things like that.  And it's unfortunate for all of us to have to go through this, but these kinds of things will happen from time to time."

And - at least in a few cases - the voters came back once the computers were fixed.

Johnson told us it only meant three or four minute delays for each voter this morning, although voters told us stories of waiting much longer.  It is all reportedly fixed now though and election officials are encouraging people not to give up, but to come back and vote.