Americans voting in this year’s midterm elections face a range of obstacles, from long lines to concerns over voter suppression. Some US citizens are also dealing with more unexpected challenges around exercising their right to vote—for instance, the weather. Across Georgia, heavy rain is an added hurdle for voters, though it’s not altogether deterring them. And humidity—a far less visible weather issue—is having an even larger impact. North Carolina’s State Board of Election (SBOE) reports that some precincts in Wake County are having trouble feeding ballots through the voting machines. “Initial reports from county elections offices indicate this issue is caused by high humidity levels,” North Carolina’s SBOE said in a release. Why is a little extra water vapor in the air making such a big difference? Joseph Lorenzo Hall, chief technologist with the Washington, DC-based nonprofit Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) and an election technology and cybersecurity expert, explains that ballots are made of a thick stock paper, the specifics of which are determined by voting machine vendors. There are three main makers of voting machines in the US. Local election officials have to work with paper vendors to get paper supplies that will function correctly with the machines and have safety requirements such as watermarks.
For added safety, the machines will only tolerate small variations in the paper specifics. And the paper will only withstand certain weather conditions. For instance, machines produced by Election System & Software only work properly with up to 50% relative humidity. This is because the paper thickens in high humidity conditions, and can end up jammed up in the machine.
But unlike a copier, Hall explains, clearing up these jams is not a simple matter of opening up the machine. To avoid hacking and tampering, machines are sealed. Removing the seal counts as tampering with election results, so poll workers have instructions not to do so in an attempt to fix the machines.
Full Article: Midterms 2018: How humidity affects voting machines — Quartz.