[Image via strangepolitics]
Last month, I wrote about how York County, PA had encountered an issue on Election Day 2017 where voters were able to vote twice for the same candidate in some races. The County has now written a report laying out what happened – and the York Dispatch has the story:
York County’s voting machine programming error was the result of a failure to establish and execute proper internal controls, according to a post-election report submitted to the state.
A technical oversight by the county’s elections department allowed a single voter to cast multiple votes for a single candidate during the Nov. 7 general election in certain races where more than one candidate was elected.
The Pennsylvania Department of State directed the county to review and explain the issue to them, which county solicitor Glenn Smith did in a report submitted Nov. 27.
The report begins by explaining that Dale Dalton, a county elections employee, has prepared and installed the programming for every election between 2004 and 2016 after he was trained by Dominion Voting, a third-party vendor.
Dominion acquired Sequoia Voting Systems, the manufacturer of York County’s machines, in 2010.
With Dalton planning to retire at the end of 2017, Nikki Suchanic, director of the county’s elections department, decided to program the machines for the 2017 primary election with supervision and assistance from Dalton, the report states.
After the primary election was conducted without any issues, Suchanic programmed the machines for the 2017 general election during the week of Oct. 9, but without supervision or assistance from Dalton, according to the report.
Suchanic tested the ballots before the machines were distributed to the polling sites without identifying any issues, the report states, until the morning before Election Day, when she discovered the double-vote issue while fixing a separate programming error in Glen Rock.
A key issue addressed in the report is why there was little or no notice to voters of the problem on Election Day:
Smith wrote in his report that Suchanic then met with him and Joseph Sassano, director of the county’s IT department, and they all came to the conclusion that there was not enough time to correct and redistribute the programming before the polls opened.
A lengthy discussion ensued with Smith, Suchanic, Sassano, the county commissioners, county administrator Mark Derr and county spokesman Mark Walters to develop a plan of action, the report states, and the decision was made to distribute signs to polling places informing voters of the issue and that they were not allowed to vote for the same candidate twice.
Smith added in his report that his office later learned that those signs were either not delivered or were posted without explanation at several precincts. Suchanic had distributed those signs to “volunteer rovers” to deliver to various polling places, the report states.
“My office is in the process of investigating this breakdown and will supplement this report,” Smith wrote. “Preliminarily, it would appear that no internal control was in place to confirm the rovers completed their task of delivering and posting the signage.”
County volunteers and an independent auditing firm later tallied up the instances where a single voter cast two votes for the same candidate — referred to as an “over vote” — and found about 2,900 such incidences in nine contested races.
While the specific problem itself may be unusual, the underlying cause – transition/retention of knowledge and experience from a retiring employee – is something every election office faces at some point. This story is a reminder, albeit somewhat extreme, that the process can be tricky. What isn’t tricky is the need to alert voters (and the public) of issues like this when they arise – and I’ll be watching to see how the County addresses that question in the promised followup report. Stay tuned …