Monroe County officials can use Hart InterCivic voting equipment for the upcoming general election despite the Indiana Election Commission’s having censured the vendor for failure to comply with state voting laws. County Elections Supervisor Laura Dahncke said the Indiana Election Commission approved a resolution allowing Hart InterCivic, the county’s voting machines vendor, and two others, Dominion and Election Systems and Software, to use current machines in the general election. At a June Indiana Election Commission meeting, clerks learned that equipment could possibly be decertified. William Ellis, the Republican member on the Monroe County Election Board, said he believes the Indiana Election Commission made the right choice in allowing use of current voting equipment this year. He noted that it also gives vendors and legislators more time to address possible certification issues based on a change in interpretation of the law. “The history behind this has to do with a very poorly written statute,” said county Clerk Nicole Browne. “The wording of the statute, if applied literally, compromised voter intent.”
As part of its resolution, the Indiana Election Commission stated Hart InterCivic’s voting system did not function properly as an automatic tabulating machine for counting ballot card votes when it comes to straight-party-ticket votes, “but instead requires manual procedures to be employed by county election boards to count ballot cards as a result of this failure.”
The state Legislature this year changed the rules regarding straight-party-ticket voting that vendors have to take into account when seeking to be compliant. The change was to ensure individual votes for at-large candidates are not rejected. So even in a pick-three race, if the voter picks a straight party ticket and yet wants to vote for a candidate from the other party, it would not count as an overvote. Carolyn VandeWiele, the designated Democratic member of the Monroe County Election Board, said if a voter chooses a straight-party ticket, he or she will have to individually mark at-large races. Those votes will be manually tabulated.
VandeWiele said representatives from Hart InterCivic said they can comply with all required changes before the March 2017 deadline. Ellis said there is no cost to the county if Hart InterCivic has to make software changes.