Tech ills plague election night

by Sarah Fay Campbell

Problems with the equipment that is used to upload data from voting machines led to some slow returns Tuesday at the Coweta Board of Elections offices.

Final vote totals came in just after midnight. Totals on the Georgia Secretary of State’s weren’t updated from just before 10 p.m. until around midnight.

Total turnout in Coweta for the primary elections was 14.81 percent. A total of 10,532 ballots were cast. That included 1,524 in-person early votes and 571 paper absentee ballots. There are 71,112 registered voters in Coweta.

That’s not a large turnout, but because the ballots were so long, and because there were Republican, Democratic and nonpartisan ballots, it took a long time for poll workers to finish their work at polling places. That meant results were late getting to the board of elections in the County Administration Building on East Broad Street in downtown Newnan for counting.

Then, one of the “TSX” machines that is used to upload the memory cards from the voting machines began to freeze up. “We kept having to turn it off and turn it back on,” said Coweta Elections Superintendent Jane Scoggins. “Then, the other machine froze.”

“It was just taking forever,” Scoggins said. “It was a bit stressful.”

The TSX machines, which can also function as voting machines, aren’t very old and Scoggins put new batteries in everything in preparation for the election.

Those two machines will soon be on their way back to the manufacturer – just as soon as the election is certified, according to Scoggins. “We’re lucky we have an extended warranty on those,” she said.

The elections office has a few other TSX machines, so Scoggins disconnected the one that was causing the most trouble and tried to hook up an alternate one. But it had the wrong IP address and wouldn’t connect. Connecting it would have required shutting the entire server down. “I just wasn’t willing to take a chance” on shutting down the server that late at night, Scoggins said, since one machine was working. It takes awhile for the server to boot back up, and “I just didn’t think it was going to be time efficient,” she said.

Two of the cards from voting machines in the Madras precinct could not be read at all. So workers had to get those vote totals manually, a process that requires doing an audit, printing an audit log, and checking against the “tapes” that are printed from each machine after the polls close. The tapes list all the votes cast.

Once the election is certified, Scoggins is going to examine the cards to see if the problem was with the memory cards themselves or with the two voting machines.

Scoggins contacted the Center for Elections at Kennesaw State University during the night for advice. KSU is essentially the tech support for elections officials around the state.

Scoggins said she plans to certify the election by Friday evening at the latest. There were four provisional ballots, and two of them were cast by voters who didn’t have their photo IDs with them. Those voters have until Friday at 5 p.m. to submit their photo IDs. If they submit them earlier, Scoggins said she will likely be able to certify the election earlier.

Then, it will be time to get ready for the runoff. There will be runoffs for U.S. Senate and Georgia State School Superintendent in both the Democratic and Republican parties. The runoff will be held on July 22.

Voters who chose a Republican ballot in the primary can only vote in the Republican runoff, and vice versa. If you voted a nonpartisan ballot, you can choose either Republican or Democrat in the primary, and if you didn’t vote in the primary, you are still vote in the runoff – as long as you were eligible to vote in the primary.



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