Voting problems were reported across the state on Tuesday - WFSB 3 Connecticut

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Voting problems were reported across the state on Tuesday

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Voters were eventually able to cast their ballots in a functioning voting machine in Berlin after it failed Tuesday morning. (WFSB photo) Voters were eventually able to cast their ballots in a functioning voting machine in Berlin after it failed Tuesday morning. (WFSB photo)
Ballots were spotted inside a duffel bag after a machine broke in Middletown (WFSB) Ballots were spotted inside a duffel bag after a machine broke in Middletown (WFSB)
HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) -

Local and federal elections officials have been urging voters to keep an eye out for poll problems and fraud on Tuesday.

Issues like down machines and running out of ballots have been reported at places around the state.

Voters have been reporting those problems.

One voter told Eyewitness News that she was at the Willard School in Berlin just after the polls opened at 6 a.m. She said within a few minutes, some voters refused to leave because a machine wasn't reading the ballots.

Polling officials told her they would run them through later. However, that wasn't good enough for those voters.

"Even though I am one vote, my vote matters, and I am going to make sure it's done the right way and I get to vote for the party or parties I want to vote for," said Sandra Roseth of Berlin.

There was also an issue at Rawson Elementary School in Hartford. Officials said a package of ballots was not coded for that location, so the voting machine would not read them.

They said voters were given the correct ballot and were able to vote.

Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said her office prepared for problems like that.

"Hopefully, there are contingency plans for everything so if a machine is not working you have another one," she said. "Every polling place should have [a] spare cord, should have a spare machine." 

In Middletown, some ballots were seen spilling out of a bag onto the floor after one of the tabulators broke at Woodrow Wilson Middle School.

Eyewitness News viewers said they were worried voting was "rigged" after a duffel bag filled with 900 ballots was found.

"I just thought they were empty ballots -- but I was wrong," said Jeanette Miranda, of Middletown.

Earlier in the day, District 12's tabulator broke and needed to be replaced.

Moderator Anita C. Scofield said she was instructed by the Secretary of the State to place the ballots in the bag and then to manually enter them into the new machine.

"Part of that process is watching to make sure...not that we expect her to steal them or do anything with them but we have to make sure...and she's doing it, as you can see," Scofield said.

While some voters stayed to watch and make sure their vote was entered properly, others couldn't, and voters said they were concerned about the bag not being secured.

"I'm not very comfortable with that because you lose the chain of control of the ballot and you don't know if they're going to get put in or what's going to happen to them," said Peter Hewitt, of Middletown.

The Secretary of the State's office tells us it is proper protocol for the ballots to be placed in a ballot bag if the machine breaks down, but typically the bag is sealed and locked.

"It sounds like they were told to put them in a bag. I don't know about ballots spilling on the floor but we're looking into it to make sure they followed the proper protocol," Merrill said.

In East Hartford, when the tabulator at Langford Elementary School in East Hartford wouldn't take John Kelleher's ballot, he decided to take to social media.

"This is a rigged system. It won't take my vote. It keeps kicking it out so they're making me do it again," Kelleher said.

Poll workers looked at Kelleher's ballot and didn't see any issues, but it continued to not be accepted.

So, he decided to go on Facebook live to make sure everyone in Connecticut knew about his problems and to make the point that every vote counts.

"If it happened to me, I wonder how many other people it happened to,” Kelleher said.

After a few more attempts, the machine finally accepted his ballot.

"The machine only holds about 2,000 ballots, and so you have to keep emptying it. With all this voting going on, it's perfecting possible it got jammed,” Merrill said.

Merrill adds that if the issue is reported to her office they will look into it.

On Tuesday, hundreds had already used the hotline at the headquarters of the Connecticut State Elections Enforcement Commission.

"What our staff is able to do is calm the public down to make sure they understand that an orderly process is what we like and is what's going on out there,” said Michael Brandi, executive director of the Connecticut State Elections Enforcement Commission.

For the last 10 years or so, they've operated the toll-free hotline to help make sure the elections are administered fairly in every city and town in Connecticut.

Anyone who suspects election fraud or voting rights abuses is encouraged to give them a call.

"We truly believe the hotline is of great value to the public because we are here to answer questions right away. We can jump on issues. We can contact moderators or registrars in every town,” Brandi said.

Commission officials say they expect to receive about the same number of calls they did for the last presidential election.

In 2012, there were nearly 600 calls, and as of 4 p.m. on Tuesday they had received a little more than 300, but say they expect a surge once people leave work.

"We are here at the public's disposal to make sure any questions they have we're here to answer right away," Brandi said.

Deirdre M. Daly, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, along with officials from the FBI, the state's Elections Enforcement Commission, the secretary of the state's office and Connecticut chief's state's attorney office announced a telephone hotline for reporting potential violations.

The number is 1-866-733-2463 (1-866-SEEC-INFO). The number is toll-free statewide.

Emails can also be sent to elections@ct.gov.

Voters can also call the SEEC at 860-256-2940 for questions about complaint procedures and to ask for help.

The SEEC is the state's primary elections investigative and civil enforcement authority.

The secretary of the state's office is charged with overseeing all elections in Connecticut.

Officials said federal law protects against crimes such as intimidating or bribing voters, altering vote tallies, stuffing ballot boxes and marking ballots for voters against their wishes or without their input.

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