Friday, April 07, 2006

Indiana: MORE VOTING PROBLEMS! (ES&S Voting Systems)

I-Team 8 Finds More Problems with ES&S Voting Equipment

April 5, 2006 01:42 PM
By Pam Elliot

[Indianapolis TV News] I-Team 8 broke the story that many Indiana counties didn't receive official ballots for early voting that began Monday. On Tuesday, I-Team 8 uncovered a problem even worse.

Once again, a voting machine company is breaking Indiana law and violating county contracts.

Electronic voting machines were supposed to be working for early voting in the Johnson County courthouse. "This machine won't do anything," said Jill Jackson, Johnson County clerk.

Jackson blames the vendor, Election Systems and Software (ES&S).

"This is not fair to the voters of Johnson County, the taxpayers. They've paid for this equipment. They've paid for this service, and this is not acceptable," Jackson said.

What's missing is a "smart card" that allows you to vote. For now, copied paper ballots will have to do for absentee voting. Johnson County and nearly two-dozen others across the state don't have the official paper ballots.

The chairman of the Indiana Election Commission is angry. "It's inexcusable that ES&S did not get those ballots to those people," said Tom Wheeler, Indiana Election Commission chair.

The machine that counts the ballots considers a ballot defective if it is not official. If that is the case, when it comes out, somebody from the election board has to count the vote by hand.

I-Team 8 has also learned the batteries that came with Johnson County's $2.4 million equipment are old and failing. At least nine other counties have the same problem. If the battery fails, the internal ballots and all the votes cast will be lost.

"That's the problem with paperless ballots and no trail balloting. They're gone," Wheeler said.

"Although I am concerned about this issue, it is the responsibility of the counties to resolve this with their vendor," said Secretary of State Todd Rokita.

I-Team 8 asked Jill Jackson whether it was time to rethink the county’s choice of vendor. "I am certain that the county commissioners are going to want to revisit this, probably along with a lot of other counties in the state of Indiana," she replied.

Commissioner Wheeler says there's little the state can do. "We will try to hold their feet to the fire. But bottom line, those promises are to the individual counties," he said.

In a statement Tuesday, ES&S said: "We have worked with the counties in an often challenging time frame to provide them with what they need for the start of early voting. That process requires information that is provided to us from the counties and approval of the ballots by the counties. We are certainly focusing our resources on meeting the needs of the counties as we get the necessary approvals and information."

Omaha-based ES&S has been in trouble with the state at least twice before for not following Indiana law, but it's not the only vendor failing Hoosier voters. The certification expired last October on electronic voting machines made by Indianapolis-based Microvote, used by 45 Indiana counties.


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