Counties across the state say they need a major upgrade to voting equipment to prevent system failures in the next election. They fear aging and potentially failing machines could get in the way of a successful electoral process. Officials say providing new machines for nearly the entire state would cost around $34 million. Some want to split the cost in the Governor’s budget over two years which could have the entire state up and running by the next major election. Current problems include the voting machine operating software. “The biggest one I think is they say that they run off Windows XP and that is no longer being supported by Microsoft,” said State Rep. Trevor Drown (R/Dover). “So there’s nothing that’s upgradeable in regards to the equipment.”
Secretary of State Ruth Johnson is moving forward with plans to replace aging voting machines around the state with “next generation” systems by August 2018. The State Administrative Board on Tuesday unanimously approved up to $82.1 million in spending over the next 10 years under contracts with three vendors who will supply new tabulator machines, election-management software and maintenance agreements. The state is expected to cover about $40 million of the spending, including most up-front costs, leaving local communities to foot the rest of the bill. Cost-sharing requirements will vary by community depending on which vendor local clerks select. “The new equipment offers voters all the speed and convenience of the latest ballot-scanning and election-night reporting technology while at the same time featuring a good, old-fashioned paper ballot that we can always go back and look at if we need to,” Johnson said in a statement.
Michigan limped through the last election on machines that were more than a decade old, but clerks across the state will soon purchase new ones under contracts approved by the State Administrative Board on Tuesday. “Every election currently, we’re always dealing with different types of mechanical breakdowns … just because the equipment is old and it’s time to upgrade to new technology,” said City of Walker Clerk Sarah Bydalek, who is president of the Michigan Association of Municipal Clerks. Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum said the old machines her precincts use come with humidity issues, and jam if ballots absorb too much moisture. But clerks are expecting those issues to decrease with a statewide rollout of new voting machines by Aug. 2018. The State Administrative Board approved 10-year contracts with three different vendors: Dominion Voting Systems, Election Systems and Software and Hart InterCivic. Secretary of State spokesman Fred Woodhams said each county clerk would choose a system to go with, and local clerks in that county would purchase that system.
New voting equipment will be available for the next statewide election in August 2018 after the Michigan Secretary of State announced the selection of three vendors Tuesday that local clerks can use for future elections. The pricetag will not be cheap. The state administrative board approved contracts Tuesday with the three vendors that will cost between $52 million and $82 million. The state has $30 million leftover from the federal Help America Vote Act funds that were provided to states for new equipment after the 2000 elections. And the Legislature approved an additional $10 million last year to pay for the new machines. And while that will cover the majority of the cost for the new system, Fred Woodhams, spokesman for Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, said Tuesday that there will be a cost for local communities of roughly $1,000 to $2,000 per precinct. Some communities have a minimal number of precincts, but for cities like Detroit, Warren, Southfield and Grand Rapids, the costs could be significant. Detroit has nearly 500 precincts, while Grand Rapids has 77, Warren has 58 and Southfield has 36.
North Dakota: Jaeger asking for new voting machines, electronic poll books | Prairie Public Broadcasting
North Dakota’s Secretary of State says it’s time to replace the state’s voting machines. Al Jaeger has asked the 2017 Legislature Jaeger has asked for a $9 million appropriation for that. He says the current machines were first used in 2004. “Even at that time, though the equipment came in fancy new boxes, the technology was already aged,” Jaeger said. “We’re now at a point where the voting system is not being supported any more.” Jaeger said counties have had to cannibalize some of their devices for parts, to keep some machines running. “We haven’t had any malfunctions,” Jaeger said. “But we know in another election, it would be very difficult to be able to run it.”
Pennsylvania: After Lebanon County problems, Pennsylvania reexamines voting machines | Lebanon Daily News
In Lebanon County, several voters reported attempting to vote for the Republican Party straight ticket, only to have their review screen show that they were voting for the Democratic Party straight ticket. There were no confirmed cases of someone actually casting an incorrect ballot. Both Anderson and election experts blamed the problem on calibration issues with the voting machines – like an iPhone or other electronic device, the touchscreen machines have to be programmed to properly register human touch. … Calibration is not the only concern with the machines, however, said Daniel Lopresti, a professor and chair of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Lehigh University.
Michigan: Detroit to get new voting machines as city clerk blames state, human error | Detroit Free Press
Five weeks after a national scandal involving broken Detroit voting machines and ineffective poll workers, state Elections Director Chris Thomas said Wednesday evening that the city will get all new voting machines in time for the 2017 mayoral and City Council elections. But broken machines were not the biggest problem Detroit endured election night. Citing a memo he just received, Thomas said there were dozens of other problems that occurred Nov. 8. “I got an e-mail yesterday from Wayne County showing me what the issues were on (Detroit) polling places and precincts, and quite frankly, it was somewhat shocking,” he said. Thomas said his staff soon will head to Detroit to get a better understanding of why the city has such problems running elections and to find ways to help. Among the problems cited in the memo, he said: Ninety-one precinct reports were not delivered on time. County officials had to re-create missing poll books. Five precincts had no poll books, so Detroit election officials had to find voter applications and re-create the books — and hundreds of poll worksheets had either too few or too many ballots.
Canyon County election officials say they have identified the culprit behind Election Day’s slow vote counting process: hundreds of ballots with tiny flaws. Canyon County was among the state’s slowest for counting ballots after polls closed on Nov. 8. In fact, the county finally posted unofficial results at 6:49 a.m. Nov. 9, beating out Bonner County, the last of Idaho’s 44 counties to finish counting, by about four hours. Initially, Canyon County officials believed the delays were caused by voters marking ballots illegibly, causing the machines to spit out ballots and election staff to review and tally each by hand. County spokesman Joe Decker also attributed the slow pace to troubleshooting and the time it took to call in a technician. … County officials then reached out to the printing company, Caxton Printing Ltd., and encouraged company officials to look at whether “timing tracks” — a sequence of squares and other shapes printed on the edges of both sides of the ballot — were properly aligned. Scott Gipson, president of Caxton Printing, reviewed some of the ballots and concluded that between 800 and 1,000 ballots printed for Canyon County had misaligned timing tracks.
The ballots are being recounted, but it’s not for the presidential election. This time it’s for Mobile County’s pay as you go measure. It was the last measure on the ballot last Tuesday. And according to Election Systems and Software, the company that runs the ballot machines, a wrong test pattern was used to program the machines. That resulted in 99.7 percent of votes favoring the measure. While many voters called in with concerns and filed complaints, it took a few days to figure out exactly what happened. The company has since taken accountability. “We obviously made a mistake originally for election day, we regret that. We’ve gone back in we’ve corrected the error there in the personal program, we’ve marked ballots we’ve double checked, we’ve triple checked, we’ve run test we’re confident today is 100 percent accurate,” said Mark Kelley with Election Systems and Software.
Kansas: Software problem slowed Johnson County vote counting on election night | The Kansas City Star
Software that malfunctioned and stalled vote tallying in Johnson County for more than three hours on election night was of the same brand that has been under scrutiny for years and has caused counting errors in other parts of the country. The Global Election Management System – or GEMS – was not the only cause of a breakdown on election night, but it was definitely one of the most frustrating, said county Election Commissioner Ronnie Metsker. Vote counters lost hours of time as they waited for help from a technical support person in Nebraska who they hoped could tell them why the system suddenly dropped 2,100 ballots from its database and how to get them back. When that help wasn’t forthcoming, the workers ended up re-scanning the paper ballots so they could be re-loaded into the database. In the end, election officials didn’t get their closing totals out until about 1:30 p.m. the next day, due to the computer breakdown and tidal waves of last-minute registrations and advance votes, Metsker said.
North Carolina: Durham County Elections Chair: No evidence of inaccurate reporting on 94,000 votes | News & Observer
Officials have seen no evidence supporting questions raised about the accuracy of more than 94,000 votes that were counted manually on election night, Durham County Board of Elections Chairman Bill Brian said Tuesday. “We have seen no evidence to that effect,” Brian said during a Tuesday press conference. “Mr. (Thomas) Stark may have some, but we have seen no evidence to that effect.” Stark, general counsel for the state Republican Party, filed a formal protest Friday contending that the Durham County Board of Elections engaged in “malfeasance” with regard to ensuring the accuracy of votes counted Nov. 8. Durham County officials had to manually enter information after they were unable to upload data from six cards that saved information from ballot tabulators. The votes were pivotal on election night, pushing Democratic gubernatorial candidate Roy Cooper ahead of Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, whose campaign has expressed concern about the votes. Cooper, the state’s attorney general, leads McCrory by about 5,000 votes with some absentee and provisional votes yet to be counted. McCrory can call for a recount so long as the margin between them remains less than 10,000 votes.
The good news is that voting, as an American tradition, is alive and well. The bad news is that the disenfranchisement of people with disabilities — also a tradition in this country — is, too. I experienced it firsthand last Tuesday in Augusta, Maine, when I attempted to exercise my constitutional right to vote. I am a disability rights attorney who happens to be blind. Neither blindness nor accessible voting systems are new to me: I have been blind since childhood, and I was a driving force in the implementation of the accessible voting system component of the Help America Vote Act in Maine and New Hampshire. On Tuesday, when I went to vote, the problems were immediate: It took two people from the city clerk’s office a half hour to get the accessible voting machine working. Once it was ostensibly functioning, it would not accept my selections on the first try — or the second, third or fourth. In fact, not until my fifth attempt. Did nondisabled voters need to wrestle their paper ballots into compliance like this? Roughly 35 minutes after I had begun voting, my ballot was complete — or so I thought.
The Mobile County Probate Court website still shows that the County’s “pay as you go” construction measure passed with 99.7 percent of the vote. “This was like the perfect storm,” said Judge Don Davis, Mobile Probate Court. But as we’ve learned that’s incorrect. Judge Davis had to wait to figure it all out before he could say there was a problem. … At least 12 complaints were filed with the State Secretary’s Office over these results, leaving Judge Davis in the hot seat. But this Monday a representative for the voting machine is taking the blame. “This issue an issue Election Systems & Software performed, it’s a human issue. The machines counted as they were told to count and the oval was not in the right place,” said Kathy Rogers, Election Systems & Software. Essentially the wrong test ballot was used for the machines to count up the votes.
Like everyone else on Tuesday, the blind and visually impaired wanted to make their voices heard. But for some people using specially-designed machines that either audibly reads the ballots or increases the size of the fonts, Tuesday was a night filled with frustration. The reader, called “AutoMARK,” is used statewide in 10 states. Jon Cauchi and Cassaundra Bell are both visually impaired and they had problems with the AutoMARK systems at polling places in the Burton Street and Breton Avenue SE area. “The computer jammed again and again my vote was cast for opposite candidates than I would have preferred,” said Bell. Cauchi said the same thing happened to him. “It jammed, the voting official took the paper out of the machine, handed it to me and I noticed the whole right side of my paper was mismarked,”
Election officials say a formatting error delayed Cascade County results on Tuesday. County Clerk & Recorder Rina Moore says the elections office noticed problems with the voting machine’s ballot feeder early Tuesday night. She says officials were only able to count 20 ballots at a time compared to the 200 to 300 the machine typically processed. An elections copy specialist from Butte revealed the problem stemmed from incorrectly-cut ballot stock, resulting in the feeder error. Moore says officials resorted to feeding ballots through a voter scanner and tabulator system which the elections office had not used before, and she said she hoped would help provide a final count.
When the official vote count begins for the P.E.I. plebiscite, it will be a computer that tallies up the votes and declares the winner. This is P.E.I.’s first foray into electronic voting and the first time those votes will be counted and processed by a computer, instead of by people. “If we had to count all those ballots manually I think we’d be there for months,” said Harry Neufeld, who’s co-ordinating the audit team for the plebiscite. He’s the former chief electoral officer of British Columbia and has been involved in several electoral reviews in other provinces. When voting ends on Saturday, Nov. 5 at 8 pm, the ballot boxes will be collected from across the Island and taken to Elections P.E.I. office where they’ll be secured overnight.
The Alamance County Board of Elections will recalibrate the voting machines at the Graham early voting site after a second-hand, anonymous complaint. A man claiming to be a concerned citizen called the Times-News and said that when a friend of his attempted to vote for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, it selected Republican candidate Donald Trump. The information was left in a voicemail with no return phone number or name of the individuals involved. Alamance County Board of Elections Director Kathy Holland said she received a similar phone call from one of the local political parties about a man claiming the machine had selected a different presidential candidate from the one he was attempting to select. No one, she stressed, has complained while voting. She said they would recalibrate the machines after voting ended Monday evening at the Youth Services Building.
Pennsylvania: In battleground Pennsylvania, claims of a ‘rigged’ election may be impossible to disprove | ZDNet
In Wednesday’s third and final presidential debate, Donald Trump made history by becoming the first major party candidate to refuse to say whether he would honor the election’s outcome if he loses. A day later at a rally in Ohio, he told supporters he would accept “a clear election result” but would reserve his right “to contest or file a legal challenge in the case of a questionable result.” Trump didn’t say what might qualify as a “questionable result.” But he’s made it clear that he already thinks the election is rigged against him. It’s almost universally agreed that is a virtual impossibility. Unfortunately, the electronic voting machine millions of Americans will use to cast their ballots can be rigged, and thanks to outdated technology it will be difficult to prove they weren’t if Trump or his supporter put forth such a claim. Verified Voting, a nonprofit group dedicated to providing information on elections, said eight out of ten Americans will cast their ballot this year on an electronic voting machine that produces some form of hard copy record of their vote. But that leaves over a dozen states in this election cycle using a direct recording electronic (DRE) machine — often a button-based or touchscreen device used for recording vote counts — which don’t support paper audit technology. In several key battleground states, electronic voting machines with paper audit trails are virtually non-existent.
Pennsylvania: Aging voting machines could be ‘nightmare scenario’ in the event of a disputed election | Los Angeles Times
On election day, voters in Pennsylvania will be touching the lighted buttons on electronic vote counters that were once seen as the solution to messy paper ballots. But in the event of a disputed election, this battleground state — one of the few that relies almost entirely on computerized voting, with no paper backup — could end up creating a far bigger mess. Stored in a locked warehouse near downtown Harrisburg, the 1980s-era voting machines used by Dauphin County look like discarded washing machines lined up in rows. When unfolded and powered up, the gray metal boxes become the familiar voting booth, complete with a curtain for privacy. Much may rest on the reliability and security of these aging machines after an unprecedentedly combative presidential campaign that is ending with Donald Trump warning repeatedly of a “rigged election” and his refusal at Wednesday’s debate to commit to accepting the results on Nov. 8. … But computer experts says the old electronic voting machines have a hidden flaw that worries them in the event of a very close election. The machines do not produce a paper ballot or receipt, leaving nothing to be recounted if the election outcome were in doubt, such as in 2000, when the nation awaited anxiously for Florida to reexamine those hanging chads.
Experts say the chances of hacking at the polls are remote, since voting machines aren’t typically connected to the internet. Still, research shows the technology behind most of these machines is grossly outdated. Forty-three states have voting machines that are at least a decade old, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan policy group at New York University’s Law School. Gregory Miller, co-founder of the Oset Institute, which works with election officials to update infrastructure, said most voting machines are running on outdated software like Windows 2000. “The largest problem here is that the PC-based equipment is based upon technology that is not only antiquated, but it is flat out obsolete,” Miller said. “Innovation in this space has devolved to a discussion of spare parts from Asia, and software patches from Eastern Europe.” Three main companies provide the vast majority of voting machines for U.S. elections — ES&S, Dominion Voting Systems and Hart InterCivic. The challenge facing the companies, according to Miller, is that states don’t have money to buy upgraded equipment, so companies don’t have the incentive to innovate.
A company that sells vote counting machines is facing a class action lawsuit that alleges its voting systems are subject to unnecessary monitoring and vulnerable to manipulation. Plaintiff Anthony I. Provitola filed the election class action lawsuit on Monday, claiming that this vulnerability in the voting system sold by Election Systems & Software LLC may put the outcome of the 2016 election at risk. According to the vote counting machine class action lawsuit, Election Systems has sold certain vote counting machines and election management systems to many jurisdictions since 2014. In addition to providing the mechanism by which to count and tabulate votes, Election Systems also provided software for the voting systems along with any software updates. “The principle/premise upon which this action is based is that no person or organization, directly or through software or device, should have or be allowed to have any opportunity to either monitor, observe, or have any other contact with the data representing votes in an election, other than persons and/or organizations specifically authorized by law to conduct the election,” the voting system class action lawsuit claims. Provitola states that Election Systems has made assurances online and through advertisements about its responsibility to safeguard democracy through the manner in which its software counts votes.
After a week of vetting absentee ballots for correct precinct assignment, the Garland County clerk’s office began mailing them out Monday to around 400 voters who applied to vote absentee in the Nov. 8 general election, County Clerk Sarah Smith said. Smith said the Garland County Election Commission initially sent her office 19 ballot styles. After a week of cross-checking precincts with the list of races assigned to each precinct, it was determined 23 were needed. One of the additional versions came after the discovery of a precinct in Justice of the Peace District 5 that didn’t include the District 6 city director’s race. The election commission had initially assigned that location a generic ballot that doesn’t include contested local races. Smith said her office didn’t double-check the precinct assignments for absentee ballots mailed for the March 1 preferential primaries and nonpartisan judicial elections, causing about 70 voters to receive incorrect ballots. On Monday, the labels with bar codes identifying voters’ names, addresses, precincts and ballot styles were ready to be placed on the envelopes the clerk’s office uses to mail absentee ballots.
Alabama: Counties to take up cost of voting machines designed aid visual and hearing impaired voters | WAAY
Voting machines designed to help visual and hearing impaired have been in place for years, but the cost of maintaining them will soon fall back from the state to the counties. According to the Alabama Secretary of State’s office, the state received about $45 million in 2002 from the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) fund. That money was put toward updating old voting machines and creating an online voter registration system. During this summer’s meeting of the Alabama Probate Judge’s Association, Secretary John Merrill talked about the fact that the funds are all but gone at this point and that counties will need to take up the cost of running and maintaining these machines.
Six days after Memphis voters went to the polls last October to elect a mayor and other city officials, a local computer programmer named Bennie Smith sat on his couch after work to catch up on e-mail. The vote had gone off about as well as elections usually do in Memphis, which means not well at all. The proceedings were full of the technical mishaps that have plagued Shelby County, where Memphis is the seat, since officials switched to electronic voting machines in 2006. Servers froze, and the results were hours late. But experts at the county election commission assured both candidates and voters that the problems were minor and the final tabulation wasn’t affected. … Shelby County uses a GEMS tabulator—for Global Election Management System—which is a personal computer installed with Diebold software that sits in a windowless room in the county’s election headquarters. The tabulator is the brains of the system. It monitors the voting machines, sorts out which machines have delivered data and which haven’t, and tallies the results. As voting machines check in and their votes are included in the official count, each machine’s status turns green on the GEMS master panel. A red light means the upload has failed. At the end of Memphis’s election night in October 2015, there was no indication from the technician running Shelby County’s GEMS tabulator that any voting machine hadn’t checked in or that any votes had gone missing, according to election commission e-mails obtained by Bloomberg Businessweek. Yet as county technicians followed up on the evidence from Smith’s poll-tape photo, they discovered more votes that never made it into the election night count, all from precincts with large concentrations of black voters.
Representatives from the Maine secretary of state’s office and Disability Rights Maine were at the Bangor Public Library on Tuesday to spread the word about Maine’s new accessible voting machines. First introduced during the June primary elections, the ExpressVote machines essentially are stand-alone units, each with a video display screen, a built-in ballot printer and attached controllers with colored buttons in various shapes with braille labels. The machines also are equipped with headsets for those who are not able to see or read ballots. “It allows people to vote independently and privately,” Jon Monroe, elections management analyst for the secretary of state’s office, said Tuesday while demonstrating how the machines work.
Rhode Island voters will go to the polls Tuesday to select candidates for Congress and General Assembly and for mayor in North Providence and Woonsocket. Voters will notice a few minor changes at the polls this year, and turnout is expected to be light. … Voters will notice a small change in the way they vote: filling in an oval on their paper ballot rather than connecting an arrow. The change is due to new digital-scan voting machines being rolled out across the state in the primary. A portion of the polling locations will also start using new electronic poll books during the primary. The new wireless tablet-based system is designed to make it easier for poll workers to find voters’ names and eliminate the waits that can happen when workers have to pore through printed binders arranged alphabetically. Several more polling places will use electronic poll books during the Nov. 8 general election, and then the full rollout is scheduled to happen in 2018, Gorbea’s office said.
Arizona: Santa Cruz County Elections Office wants new machine after primary night glitch | Nogales International
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.
A USC Computer Science professor says South Carolina’s voter registration system and voting machines are vulnerable to hackers. Dr. Duncan Buell says South Carolina’s registration system is a possible target since it’s online. The FBI recently announced that Russian hackers had targeted the voter registration systems in Illinois and Arizona, with a hacker actually stealing the personal information of up to 200,000 voters in Illinois. The South Carolina State Election Commission says the voter registration system could be hacked, since it is online and anything online is vulnerable, but it has its own in-house computer security experts and works with vendors and the state’s computer security agency to protect the system. The Election Commission says the actual voting machines are much less vulnerable because they’re never connected to the internet or to each other. That doesn’t make them 100 percent safe, but it does lessen the chances of being hacked.
Election Systems & Software (ES&S) has released a report on its findings related to errors in the Hill County Republican Primary. The report comes amidst an ongoing investigation by Attorney General Ken Paxton into irregularities with the vote totals reported in the election. Last month, Direct Action Texas discovered that the number of reported votes in the Hill County Republican Primary exceeded by more than 1700 the number of voters the county reported had shown up at the polls. ES&S, which supplies electronic voting machines and other election services to Hill County, was asked by the county to investigate the error. ES&S found that early voting ballot cast totals were incorrect by the same amount as the number of absentee ballots cast, and Election Day ballot cast totals were incorrect by the same number of paper ballots that were voted during early voting.
Starting next week, island residents can begin in-office voting. And for the first time, the Guam Election Commission will be utilizing a new machine that will help voters with disabilities vote independent and privately. “It’s a long time coming and to finally have it here on Guam, it’s overwhelming,” expressed Mangilao resident Gerard Cruz may be blind, but this coming election, he’s looking forward to casting his vote. “Freedom – that’s the only way I can describe it to come in to vote independently and privately on my own without the assistance of somebody reading to me the ballot and then marking it down for me, I can do everything on my own as I did when I was sighted before.”