Leigh Riggleman pulled an all-nighter in Lincoln County after running into problems with a ballot scanner in the primary election. “There was no fix,” said Riggleman, assistant election administrator, on Wednesday. “The technician adjusted and adjusted and adjusted, and called, and talked to people, and it was merely a matter in some cases of running them (ballots) through a second time.” At least three counties reported problems with ES&S 650 ballot scanners in this week’s primary: Lincoln, Sanders and Powell counties. On Wednesday, an election official in Powell County said trouble originally attributed to the scanner was actually due to voter error. While the tallying took more time in some cases, Riggleman said voters can rest assured their ballots were properly counted: “I am still – even with all the problems – still satisfied with the integrity of our election process. I think across the state, we strive to do whatever we can to make sure the public doesn’t question our integrity.” ES&S did not return a voicemail left Wednesday afternoon on its media line, and a company field director also did not return a call for comment.
In Lincoln, an error message showed up on the scanner, which wasn’t reading one column of the ballot, Riggleman said. The county called in a technician from ES&S, who ended up on the phone with ES&S in Omaha; she pulled the all-nighter along with about six staff and three election judges. “They finally determined that the ovals were a little bit too dark, and the scanner was just finicky enough that it didn’t like the darkness of those ovals,” Riggleman said. In some cases, the county went through an official duplication process for ballots that just wouldn’t count, she said. Riggleman said she hasn’t run into trouble before and hopes not to in November. “My understanding of the problem is that it can be taken care of in the next election by the printer not printing as dark an oval as he’d printed this time,” she said.
Around 8:30 a.m. Wednesday when the county was finishing up its work, the power went out, and the crew had to count the final precinct over again. Once Riggleman catches up on sleep, she said she’ll make some phone calls to learn more about how to stave off problems with the machine in the general election. She isn’t about to ask the county to buy a new one, though: “I’ll tell you what, my ballot scanner is only about four years old. It should not be expired.” And she said taxpayers can’t afford another one at $50,000 to $60,000 each.