The county’s elections chief said she’ll insist on a new ballot-tabulating machine for the November general election after recently purchased equipment malfunctioned and caused an hours-long delay in tabulating the results of Tuesday’s primary. With several candidates and their supporters looking on anxiously, a technician attempted to fix a high-speed scanner that was being used to count ballots Tuesday night after it jammed. “We thought it would be an easy fix, get it up and running and be able to continue,” said County Elections Director Melinda Meek. “Obviously it wasn’t a quick fix. (The technician) had to take the thing apart.” Meek said the machine jammed while elections workers were running early mail-in ballots through it. The snafu forced officials to resort to using two hand-fed backup machines that could only process one ballot at a time. As a result, the first preliminary election results that included just early ballots were announced at approximately 10:30 p.m., several hours after they were expected. Updated results that included ballots cast at the polls came an hour later.
Though officials continued using the machine after the technician put it back together, Meek said she didn’t “think he ever got it fully running so that we could do a lot of ballots.” Even worse, the only way to test if the machine was working properly was to run more ballots through it. If the machine jammed, it would crush the ballot.
Damaged ballots had to be duplicated, Meek said, which involved one person reading the original ballot, while the other marked the duplicate. They then switched to confirm that the ballot was filled out accurately before running it through the machine again.
The county recently leased new voting equipment for three years from Election Systems & Software. The price for the machines was roughly $300,000 for all three years, and they replaced older models that were no longer being serviced.