'Not a McDonald's drive-thru': US must 'get its elections right, not fast,' urges election watchdog

Nation has "hired a black box to count your vote," said Amistad Project director Phill Kline, amid a raft of new reports of election machine glitches. It's time, he added, to put "America back in the counting room and understand what's happening."

Updated: November 10, 2022 - 11:34am

The midterm elections on Tuesday were marred by a rash of new reports of issues with election equipment — whether due to defective technology or human error or intent — even as ongoing revelations about irregularities have continued to fuel doubts about the 2020 election.

During the 2020 election, a state's election computer system was hacked, and some election machines were found to have vulnerabilities by the Department of Homeland Security. With the 2022 midterms, many of the hiccups in voting were related to machine issues.

In early October, The Carter Center observed the logic and accuracy testing of Arizona's voting and counting equipment in nine of the state's 15 counties: Apache, Cochise, Coconino, Graham, La Paz, Maricopa, Navajo, Pima, and Pinal. The center said that the equipment passed the testing, "indicating it is ready to use and can be expected to function correctly for the midterm election."

In Maricopa County, Ariz., approximately 20% of the ballot tabulation machines were not properly reading the ballots, causing a delay in voting on Tuesday. The technological issue was resolved by technicians changing the printer settings on the machines. Prior to the machines being fixed, voters were able to place their ballots in a secure slot on the tabulation machines to be counted later.

Maricopa County didn't immediately respond to a request for comment regarding the cause of the machine issues.

In Luzerne County, Pa., many polling locations ran out of the specific paper needed for printing and scanning ballots. As a result, a judge extended the polling hours to 10 p.m. 

"It's more than embarrassing," Luzerne County Democratic Councilman Tim McGinley told local ABC affiliate WNEP. "It's very frustrating. We know we've had problems in the past. I believed that they were making efforts to correct all those problems and have a great election. We voted to get that machine to them. We purchased that machine to help them with the election. We gave them additional personnel."

Some voters were given provisional ballots to cast their votes. A poll worker, Deborah Jordan of Sugarloaf, told the media outlet that she and other poll workers were not given clear guidance, instead receiving "many different answers" about how to handle the problem.

In Mercer County, N.J., there was an issue with Dominion voting machine scanners, forcing the county to use paper ballots instead.

The county clerk, Paula Sollami-Covello, reported the issue to the county prosecutor's office to "investigate as to whether this scanning problem occurred based on an error or whether something was intentionally done to create chaos and distrust in the election system," the Trenton Bureau reported.

Sollami-Covello said that while officials are "not suspicious of any specific wrongdoing," authorities "do need to investigate the matter fully."

"At the end of the day, as county clerk, I must certify the election results, so I do have an interest in the integrity of our system," she added.

A spokesperson for the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office said that Sollami-Covello had contacted the office, which is "reviewing her concerns to determine what further action should be taken."

A Dominion spokesperson told Just the News on Thursday, "The issue in Mercer County is a printing issue. The Dominion tabulators functioned exactly as they should by rejecting incorrectly printed ballots. We are actively working with Royal Printing and Mercer County election officials on this issue."

Other issues with ballot scanners and counting machines occurred at polling locations in, respectively, Floyd County, Ind., and Albany County, N.Y.

Phill Kline, the director of election watchdog nonprofit The Amistad Project, told Just the News on Wednesday that "elections aren't complex," as voters check who they vote for, and those checks are counted. However, elections have been made complex with technology. The only benefit to the technology is swiftness, but this comes at the expense of transparency, he continued.

Kline noted that the trust in election results has dropped in both political parties amid mounting concerns about the vulnerabilities in machines.

"We need to nix the machines," he added, saying that America has the responsibility to get its elections right, not fast, as they are "not a McDonald's drive-thru."

Kline explained that the election machines became popular following the "Help America Vote Act" after the 2000 presidential election. The federal government gave money to the states to purchase the equipment.

"Now it's a profitable market," Kline said, but it's "harmed our faith in elections and will continue to because we can't make them transparent," since America has essentially "hired a black box to count your vote."

The public doesn't know who the voting machine companies employ, nor understand the updates to election equipment. The answer isn't to have more technology and experts involved in elections, but to have "America back in the counting room and understand what's happening," Kline said.

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