Scanners Cuyahoga County has used to tally election results since 2008 are defective, missing some votes, freezing up inexplicably and failing to log problems, according to a federal government agency. The U.S. Election Assistance Commission released its findings this week, after a 20-month investigation spurred by an April 2010 Plain Dealer story. The paper reported a tenth of the machines arbitrarily powered down and locked up, failing certification tests required by federal law.
The manufacturer, Omaha-Neb.-based Elections Systems & Software Inc., tried to fix the problems this year, but the upgrade actually created more problems, according to the report. If the company can’t correct the flaw, the government could decertify the machines — leaving Cuyahoga and jurisdictions without the country no way to conduct elections in a presidential year.
Taxpayers spent more than $12 million on the scanners in 2008, to replace a $21 million touch-screen system that crashed twice on the night of the 2007 general election. The scanners were used in the 2008 presidential election, the 2009 election that ushered in a charter government, the 2010 election that chose new county leaders and countless local elections affecting taxes, city councils and school boards.
Cuyahoga County elections chief Jane Platten said late Thursday that the scanner-counted results for all elections are accurate. Her staff has created safeguards to work around the problems, including hand-counting certain races to make sure ballots are accurately counted.
“The system works,” Platten said. “There are definitely problems that need to absolutely be fixed. . . We verify so we are confident in that in every single election.”