Spider spins web, crashes voting machine in Rehoboth

When a voting machine in the town of Rehoboth mysteriously stopped working on Election Day, officials found a web of mischief spun not by a human, but by a saboteur with eight legs.

During the morning rush Tuesday, one of the town’s machines malfunctioned and failed to recognize ballots because a spider web had blocked a sensor, said Town Clerk Kathleen Conti.

“It was something as simple as that,” she said. “We were cursing that spider. He’s still at large and we’re still looking for him.”

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Conti said everything went smoothly till 9:30 a.m. Then the spider struck.

Conti called a technician, but he was unable to get to the voting site until 3:30 p.m., leaving election staff with no choice but to count 867 votes by hand, said Conti, who has been town clerk for the past decade.

The machine worked properly after the technician removed the web, she said.

“Our elections usually run very smoothly,” Conti said. “We did have maintenance on our equipment about a month before the election.”

Conti also completed pre-election testing on the machines on Oct. 30, she said.

“Everything worked fine,” Conti said. “I guess they’re pretty quick when they spin those webs.”

The machines are about 14 years old and Conti has been pushing for new voting equipment for the last six years, she said.

Conti said the issue kept “slipping through the cracks” and that no new machines were bought because “the town is hurting financially.”

A a special town meeting is slated for Nov. 26 to address the need for new equipment, during which Conti will present a warrant article for the purchase.

The majority of voters in Rehoboth cast their ballots in favor of Mitt Romney and Scott Brown, Conti said.

Romney received 3,246 votes compared to President Obama’s 2,912 votes. Scott Brown recieved 3,651 votes, while Senator-elect Elizabeth Warren received 2,610, Conti said.

Of the town’s 7,851 active registered voters, 6,339 made it to the polls, representing an 81 percent turnout, she said.

“I can’t thank our election workers enough,” who stayed after 4 a.m. Wednesday to tally votes, Conti said. “They had not one complaint. They’re all so diligent.”

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