Franklin County BOE Screws Up

11 November 2011, 16:14 CDT

Without suggesting any malice or intent, it looks like the Franklin County Ohio Board of Elections really screwed up the electronic voting machines this time around.  I used to be a polling official for Franklin County, and there was some nonsense that went on, and some that I never wrote about involving election observers who were acting as election officials, etc.

A friend of mine who still does the type of work I did in Franklin County forwarded me the following email laying out what a disaster last week’s election was.  One has to wonder not necessarily about whether the county-wide mistake was intentional but a) did anyone have an opportunity to take advantage of it and b) how much worse was it, really?  I know from working at a major university when an electronic theft of personal information happened that the official story isn’t even close to what actually happened.

From: Precinct Election Officials <PEO@xxx.franklincountyohio.gov>
Subject: Election Night Results Tapes
To: “xxxxx@xxx.xxx”
Date: Friday, November 11, 2011, 9:20 AM

November 11, 2011

Dear Polling Official:

On Tuesday, November 8, 2011 at about 7:45 p.m. the machine trouble phone bank suddenly became overwhelmed with calls reporting that you, our poll workers were unable to print results tapes from the last voting machine for the voting locations once all voting machines had been closed.  Once we started taking the calls about being unable to print results tapes it took several minutes (an eternity) to determine the cause of the problem, discuss how to most efficiently address the problem to get results reporting and get all operators informed on a backup plan so they could better answer your calls and relay the information.  The next problem was that while we were trying to assess the issue, the calls in the queue grew and unfortunately many of you were still waiting for answers.

In the hour from 7:45 to 8:45 p.m. over six hundred calls came to the machine trouble call center and many of the locations probably tried multiple times to get their call through.  Our thirteen operators were able to answer three hundred sixty calls and inform the polling officials to pack up their supplies and deliver them to the warehouse without results tapes.  In that same period two hundred seventy two calls were abandoned.  A robo call was made to all of the Board’s PEO cell phones about an hour into this situation.

Let us explain the reason for the problem.  As each election is begun there is an election preferences page where the programmers define how voting machines will function for the current election.  There are choices on this page for each jurisdiction using the voting system to define.  Two of the items on that page that the programmer are to address is whether  “Zero Tapes” and “Results Tapes” are to be printed for the election.  To have a tape or tapes printed the programmer insert the number of tapes needed in the space provided next to the tape type.  Some of you may remember that in past history, the board required two “Zero Tapes” printed as the polls were opened in the morning and two “Results Tapes” as the polls were closed. We eliminated the opening zero tape several years ago and retain the practice of printing results tapes (one to post and one to be returned) with supplies.  In error the programmers for this election inadvertently specified two (2) “Zero Tapes” and zero (0) “Results Tapes”. The values entered should have been reversed.  During the programming and testing of our database settings we open polls on a few machines, put test votes on machines and print results tapes to insure all aspects of the system work.  However because we do this testing up to five weeks prior to election day, we use an override pass code rather than the actual process a poll worker would follow to generate the results tape since the date and time on the voting machine is set to a date and time other than 7:30 p.m. (polls closing time) on the date of the election.

We apologize for the mistake that caused this frustration as the end of a very long day. Let me assure you that additional procedures will be implemented to insure that these setting are set properly for future elections.   Let me also commend you on the exemplary way you dealt with this challenge and finished out your duties the best that you could.  All Franklin County election returns had been checked in, were processed and unofficial results for 324,515 voters were posted by 12:21 a.m.

We thank you for your service to the voters of the county and your understanding in this matter.

Sincerely,

William A. Anthony, Jr.
Director

Nathan D. Burd
Deputy Director

Karen S. Cotton
Manager of Election Operations

Is the explanation sufficient or acceptable?  I’m skeptical, but you decide.

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