Palm Beach County was plagued by broken machines and missed deadlines this midterm election, putting them once again in the national spotlight. Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher blamed the problems on the machines, which at one point during the machine recount overheated, causing them to have to recount thousands of votes that had already been counted. Bucher said she has repeatedly asked for new machines for the past 10 years, but has been stuck using the eight machines already there when she took office in 2009. The problem is those machines use a software that only allow each individual race to be scanned at a time. Bucher said and the county confirmed there is money in the budget to the tune of $11.1 million set aside to pay for new counting equipment, but it hasn’t been purchased yet.
A bill that would pay to replace all of Nevada’s electronic voting machines was introduced in the Assembly on Thursday. Assembly Bill 519 would provide a total of $8 million to the Secretary of State’s Elections Division. County elections officials have repeatedly told lawmakers the Sequoia machines are now so old they’re failing, causing numerous problems for poll workers in early voting as well as on election day. Those machines are now more than a decade old and were the state’s first electronic voting system, replacing the old punch card voting 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.
“New Jersey’s definitely vulnerable,” said former FBI agent Manny Gomez. He means the statewide system of 11,000 computerized voting machines, where New Jerseyans will close the curtains and pick a president this November. It’s a network that hackers could break into, without even breaking a sweat, because these systems were designed for efficiency, not security, according to Gomez. “Jersey’s very vulnerable from foreign attacks or just some goofball sitting in his basement that has the skill set. It’s not that complicated to hack into a government entity these days,” he said. … “Election results can be altered through a hack and they can also be altered through human error. The problem with New Jersey’s voting machines is, there’s no way to check,” said RutgersProfessor Penny Venetis. Venetis says the AVCs contain no paper backup to verify votes cast, although that’s required by New Jersey law. She sued the state — which refused to replace the machines — but agreed not to connect them to the internet.
For the second time in two elections, a “technical glitch” stalled the Ouachita Parish Clerk of Court’s Office in completing election returns Saturday night. Over 50 minutes elapsed before election results were updated on the Secretary of State’s website at about 10:15 p.m. At the time, less than 10 precincts remained out across three local elections. Ouachita Parish Clerk of Court Louise Bond said equipment including laptops and readers are brought in from the Secretary of State’s office for the election. “We have a computer that has a reader and sometimes they don’t read, and we had a glitch in it,” she said. Cartridges that register votes from each precinct are brought to the clerk’s office where they are electronically read. Bond said the reader was unable to extract information from a cartridge that came from western Ouachita Parish.
Nevada is set to figure big in the 2016 election. Not only might we be the deciding state in the presidential election, but who we elect in the Senate race to replace Sen. Harry Reid may determine the balance of power in Congress. And two ballot measures – on legalized marijuana and firearms background checks – will bring people to the polls in droves. Are we ready for this? Is our election system set to handle the influx of voters? On machines that were built more than 15 years ago? Clark County Registrar of Voters Joe Gloria is certain he can keep the voting machines healthy through the 2016 election, but he’s not sure how much magic he and his staff can work after this. “We definitely need to start that conversation and the time to plan is now,” Gloria told KNPR’s State of Nevada, “Nobody plans to fail, they fail to plan.”
It won’t be available during this election, but Secretary of State Tom Schedler wants to bring iPad voting to Louisiana in the next two or three years. If reelected this fall, Schedler said he would look to transition Louisiana from its traditional voting machines to iPads. The shift would cost a fair amount of money – a rough estimate puts it somewhere between $45 million and $60 million. So Schedler might first look to lease the equipment to bring the cost down initially. iPad voting would also run as a pilot program in select locations before consideration was given to launching it statewide, according to Schedler’s office.
The Callaway County Commission and County Clerk Denise Hubbard met with sales associates from Springfield-based Elkins-Swyers Company to learn about options for new voting machines. Hubbard said the current voting machines are at least 10 years old, and the most common glitch is with the piece that rolls ballots into the machine’s hub for storage. She added that piece of equipment can sometimes be fixed internally, but when the issue is more complex, the machine has to be shipped to Springfield for repairs. Clerk employees use Windows 98 on election nights. Cory Nibert, a sales associate with Elkins-Swyers, said the current machines have not yet been phased out, but parts are becoming more expensive. He and his co-worker, Steve Byers, brought a new voting machine inside the Commission’s office Thursday for demonstration. Hubbard told the commission she wanted to give them an idea of what’s available. “(The system) is very similar to what we use now. It’s just a little more computerized, maybe,” Hubbard said. “It’s a little easier, a little smoother. It’s going to cut down on man hours.”
Addressing the House and Governmental Affairs committee Wednesday, Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler sent out an S-O-S on the condition of the state’s stock of voting machines. “I just will tell you that it’s getting a little scary out there,” Schedler said, reminding lawmakers, “Voting machine equipment is all 15-20 years, plus.” Sulphur Rep. Mike Danahay, part of a contingent that’s been investigating new voting technology with Schedler, noted, “They’re having to scavenge parts off old machines to keep the current machines running.”
Voting in the state of Louisiana could be changing in the next three to five years. The machines that are in use now are becoming a thing of the past. Officials are having to use parts from older machines to keep some of the current machines running. The Secretary of State’s office said that Louisiana needs to move to voting via tablets in the near future. Technology is on their radar, but so is addressing problems with the current voting system. “The participation of voters is weak,” Schedler said Wednesday before a house committee. He said registering voters is no issue, but getting people back to take part in the process is a problem, particularly among the 18-26 year old crowd. He added the more opportunities people have to vote, be it early voting or by absentee, the turnout has decreased.