It’s unknown at this time if human or computer error caused the June 5 ballot counting problems at the Davison County Courthouse, but it’s not the first time an Election Systems & Software M650 ballot scanner has been involved in election irregularities. The group VotersUnite.org has posted lists of nationwide ballot system problems on its website. The group alleges that miscounts and errors have become commonplace with ballot scanners including the M650. Its site lists numerous instances of voting system problems going back nearly a decade. In Mitchell, a June 7 recount prior to the official canvass of ballots showed that ballot totals from the M650 were higher on June 5 than they should have been. The recount did not change the election, but it created questions about the reliability of the M650 system. Mitchell school board candidate Craig Guymon, who ran a distant third in the race for two available seats on the board, filed a complaint with the First Judicial Circuit Court in Mitchell on June 15, contesting the results of the school board election. Guymon said he doesn’t trust the inconsistent ballot counts generated by the M650 and asked the court for a hand count of ballots or a new election. Davison County Auditor Susan Kiepke said Tuesday that ES&S will not examine the county’s M650 computer logs for problems until the lawsuit is settled.
On June 5, while Davison County was having its vote-counting problems, M650 ballot counters were also causing headaches for Lincoln, Powell and Sanders counties in Montana, according to The Missoulian newspaper of Missoula, Mont. The most serious problem was in Lincoln County, Mont., where an M650 counter failed to correctly read one marked column of a ballot, resulting in incorrect counts. In Powell County, voters incorrectly marked their ballots with X’s, causing a machine miscount, and in Sanders County, misaligned sensors initially misread ballots, but technicians corrected the problem.