Sara Hornick and her husband, Chris, took their children to Southwest Middle School at 8 a.m. Tuesday to showcase the democratic process at work. In the parking lot, a man was shouting. “Turn around. Don’t waste your time. We can’t vote, anyway!” Determined, she continued onward. At the desk where she’d normally verify her registration, a worker told her the electronic device — an e-poll book — wasn’t working. “Any idea when it will be?” she asked. “We have no idea,” the poll worker said, who then suggested she contact the Pennington County auditor. It was a scene taking place at polling places across Rapid City. More than half the voting sites, 16 in all, extended the closing time on Tuesday’s election day to accommodate a late start to ballot-casting thanks to a computer problem: The county-issued Dell Computers that navigated the new e-poll book service were not connecting to the secure hot spots provided by a separate router for each device.
Julie Pearson, Pennington County auditor, said she had no idea of how many voters were turned away at polling places, but the clunky equipment failure dogged many precincts. The laptops started up, but the election software connecting officials to the Secretary of State’s voter registration lists could not connect to the internet.
There was no paper back-up on hand, and without voter registration lists, poll workers couldn’t verify a voter’s identification and protect the integrity of the election process.