8 November, 2016
Problem occurred at 5-6 Lebanon County machines, director says
The question of election day 2016 in Lebanon County is becoming: “Did you preview your ballot before voting?”
A second issue has arisen for voters choosing Donald Trump for president. When they preview their ballot on the touchscreen machine at the polls, some are finding a vote for Trump is about to be reported as a vote for Hillary Clinton.
Earlier today, a problem with the calibration of electronic voting machines in Lebanon County caused 5-6 machines to represent straight Republican tickets as straight Democratic tickets, said Michael Anderson, director of the Lebanon County Bureau of Elections.
In these cases, the voter attempted to vote for the full Republican ticket, but noticed in the review screen that the vote was going to a straight Democratic ticket instead, Anderson said. They alerted their poll workers, who alerted the Bureau of Elections.
The Bureau of Elections has a software expert who was able to solve the problem in each case, he said. It involves a calibration issue regarding the machine. The Republican and Democratic straight tickets appear next to each other on the ballot.
In each case, the problem was resolved and the voter was able to successfully change their ballot to the desired ticket, Anderson said. He was not aware of anyone actually casting an incorrect ballot. He was not sure whether there were any instances of a straight Democratic ticket appearing as a straight Republican ticket.
The polling locations where the error occurred include Myerstown Community Library and locations in Annville Township and East Hanover, he said.
Cecelia McNaughton, judge of elections for Lebanon’s 1st Ward West, confirmed one similar incident at the Lebanon Municipal Building. She said a man voting straight Republican ticket at 7:30 a.m. alerted her that the machine showed the Democratic slate of candidates. She cancelled the vote and the man completed his voting on another machine correctly. After notifying voter registration, within minutes a technician arrived and correctly recalibrated the machine.
McNaughton said the machine has been functioning fine ever since.
Swatara Township resident Fred Stafford said he voted at about 8:30 a.m. at the Swatara municipal building and attempted to cast a ballot for the Republican party ticket, but the review screen showed the Democratic ticket instead. He alerted his poll workers, who instructed him how to cancel the ballot. He tried several more times to get the Republican ticket without success, he said. The poll worker then attempted it 2-3 times before ultimately getting the Republican ticket to work, he said.
Since the calibration issue came out, Lebanon Daily News has received calls from voters complaining about incorrect ballots for individual candidates.
Roy Gingrich said he attempted to vote specifically for Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump, but when he arrived at the review screen, it indicated his ballot was about to be cast for Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton.
“I was ready to explode in front of everybody, but I just kept my calm,” he said.
Gingrich said he talked to a poll worker who believed the problem might be oil on the voting screen. After the screen was wiped, he cast his ballot again and this time the machine displayed his vote for Trump correctly.
Gingrich was alerted by Jack Yanni, a fellow voter who cast his ballot – and almost had it mistakenly recorded as a vote for Hillary Clinton. Yanni told Lebanon Daily News that he saw Gingrich in line as he was leaving the polls, and the man had a Trump hat on. Yanni warned him to preview his ballot and make sure his presidential choice was the one he meant to make.
Yanni told Lebanon Daily News that his ballot, when previewed, showed he voted for Clinton when he in fact did not. He alerted a poll worker and his vote was corrected before submitted.
Speaking for the elections office, when asked about this issue Anderson said that when poll workers are trained, they are instructed to wipe screens periodically. It is possible that oil on a screen could cause a voter’s fingers to slip. However, he said he would not speculate on whether that actually caused any voting problems in this election.
Problems with Trump ballots previewing as Clinton votes have also occurred in Butler County, according to a KDKA in Pittsburgh.
Terry Madonna, a political science professor at Franklin & Marshall College, said he heard of calibration problems in the primary election but hadn’t heard of it before this year. The government has a responsibility to ensure voters can have confidence in the outcome of an election, he said.
“Do I think this is something that is widespread? No. Do I think this is something that’s going to impact the result of the election? No. But I do think it’s a problem that should be taken care of,” he said.
Concerns about the error at polling locations have also been the subject of discussion on the Facebook pages of several Lebanon County residents.
“It’s deeply concerning,” Megan Sweeney, communications director for the Republican Party of Pennsylvania, said of the ballot previews being incorrect. “It is something our election day legal team will look into.”
All voters are encouraged to review their ballot before casting it, and to alert their poll worker or the Bureau of Elections if there are any problems, Anderson said.