Chesterton Tribune

 

 

State election report blames humans, not computers for Porter County snafus

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

The Indiana Secretary of State’s Office on Friday said Porter County’s new electronic poll books are not to blame for the technical problems reported in this past May’s municipal primary elections.

Instead, a report conducted by the Voting System Technical Oversight Program (VSTOP) attributes the snafus to poll workers, poor internet connection at polling locations, ballot counting machine failures, router failures, “confusing” voter tally sheets and “inadequate” poll worker training.

A summary of the report was released Friday along with a statement issued from Secretary of State Connie Lawson. VSTOP is tasked with documenting issues with equipment sold to counties by vendors and making recommendations relevant for the functioning of that equipment.

“After reviewing VSTOP’s conclusions, I’m confident there was not a problem with the e-PollBooks,” Lawson said in her statement. “There were several other factors that lead to the discrepancy between ballots counted and the total number of voters voting. There was human error in recording the number of people who voted before turning off the machines, there was equipment error with the machines that scan the cast ballots and a router failed at one location. These difficulties were compounded when the poll workers went to reconcile vote totals. There was trouble recording and calculating vote totals and confusion with tally sheets.”

Election Board President and Republican representative David Bengs told the Chesterton Tribune on Monday that “it’s no shock” what the report said after he and fellow Election Board member and County Clerk Karen Martin, also a Republican, had stated before that “human error” was what caused the problems.

“I think (the report) shows clearly that this is our first time using the e-poll books,” Bengs said. “We’re going to up the training for our poll workers and the vendor is going to be here to help with that.”

Martin said she has made arrangements with Electronic Systems and Software (ES&S) to provide more training this fall which will “alleviate many of the issues” and “the equipment will be thoroughly checked prior to being put in the field.”

Martin accused critics of stating misinformation and making false statements of poor performance by the e-PollBooks and purports that “partisan politics with the sole purpose to stop Porter County from making any progress in the election process.”

VSTOP began its investigation following a complaint filed by Democratic Director of the Voters Registration office and County Democratic Party Vice-Chair Kathy Kozuszek and an inquiry by Indiana State Rep. Chuck Moseley, D-Portage, who had informed Democratic Co-Chair of the Indiana Election Division Trent Deckard on Election Day -- Tuesday, May 5 -- of “several electronic poll book failures.”

Tensions rose between the Republican-dominated County Election Board and a few key Democrats when it came time for the voting results to be certified 10 days after the election. Kozuszek said the vote count from the central point server on Election Night was 334 votes different than the count from the voting tapes and argued the vote could not be certified.

Kozuszek’s complaint filed on May 14 alleged that Bengs authorized vendor Electronic Systems and Software to “break the seals on the electronic poll books to determine what when wrong” in an attempt to reconcile the number of poll book check-ins with that of voted ballots.

Program Manager of the Indiana State Voter Registration System (SVRS) Christian Hoberland had received word from Martin that there were some issues because poll workers had forgotten to turn on their routers at a few locations, according to the VSTOP report. Martin further reported that there were problems with the M100 voting scanners and that some workers shut down the e-Poll Books without copying the number of voters processed.

On June 9, VSTOP interviewed Martin, Kozuzsek, Bengs, Democratic County Election Board member James J. Stankiewicz, Republican Voters Registration Director Sundae Schoon and two representatives from vendor Electronic Systems and Software.

VSTOP said the data collected from ES&S and the SVRS showed that with the addition of absentee ballots, the discrepancy between voter check-ins and ballots counted was reduced to 35.

The report said that Martin, Kozuszek and poll workers all indicated there were problems with the M100 voting scanners in reading some of the ballots.

VSTOP recommends that Porter County adopt the method of providing record tally sheets for each hour the polls are open, as well as “good and continuous internet connectivity” by providing “redundant methods of electronic communication.”

The County Council still hasn’t approved the purchase of the poll books that were acquired this year, and have vetoed the Election Board’s request at least twice. Bengs said the matter will be addressed again in the next few weeks when the board has its second reading on its 2016 proposed budget by the Council.

Bengs believes the report’s results will help in the case for funding and has shared the reports with the Council and County Commissioners.

Dems speak out

Kozuszek told the Tribune Monday that her actions are not motivated by partisan politics because for her it’s about how the equipment was purchased and implemented. The poll books did not arrive until a week before election, giving the poll workers not much time to learn the new equipment.

“It was all rushed through,” Kozuszek said.

She and Democratic Party Chair Jeff Chidester said it is upsetting that the report points the finger at poll workers, many of them older and used to the traditional methods of using paper ballots.

“To blame the poll worker, I think is wrong,” Kozuszek said.

Kozuszek also said she filed her complaint not because of politics but so that the state could investigate the performance of the e-poll books.

She said that training workers on the e-poll books would nearly double the length of the classes to two to three hours and it’s supposed to be the Election Board, not Voters Registration that does the training.

Chidester said he finds it “a bad thing” that the election board is “experimenting with elections” and worries that voter turnout will be lower than it is now with all the problems report.

“The system doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do,” Chidester said.

Chidester also mentioned that VSTOP is the organization that had certified the poll books for use in the state, expressing doubts that the report would have found fault with the devices.

 

Posted 9/22/2015

 
 
 
 

 

 

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