Multiple Ky. counties face ballot-marking machine issues

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MADISON COUNTY, Ky. (LEX 18) — Voters in multiple Kentucky counties are reporting issues with ballot-marking machines.

In Madison County, some voters who pressed the button for straight party Democrat were instead told by the device that they had selected straight party Republican, County Clerk Kenny Barger confirmed.

The issue appears to be with the touch screens and a recent software update, he explained. While a team works to determine precisely why they face the issue, Barger insisted that it did not impact the election results.

“There’s no manipulation of the device; there’s no one doing anything wrong to try to trick you into voting one way or another,” Barger said.

At the same time, he said that does not mean nothing went wrong.

“Yeah, we’ve had issues; this is not the way an election is supposed to be conducted,” he said, explaining the past few days have been like “trying to fix an airplane while flying it.”

The issues are specifically with their ballot-marking machines. They don’t do the actual vote counting. It’s not the only issue they faced with their “Express Vote” machines.

“People we’re voting, picking a separate race, and other races were being selected,” he said, explaining that the machine was taken out of service. “That all sounds horrible, and it is, but that’s not the voting [machine]; it’s a ballot-marking device.”

The machines repeatedly give voters a chance to review their ballots before printing.

“No matter how many times you want to start over or you don’t like what the machine has done or any of that, you can click return to ballot and change all your selections, and then it asks you two more times if you are certain you want to print your ballot then you get a ballot out of the machine with the text on it you can confirm those are your choices and then cast your vote in the express vote scanner,” Barger said.

He said when someone looked at what was printed and found it not to be who they intended to vote for, poll workers could fix the problem for them.

That was the case for about 10 people at the polling station located at the Madison County Public Library, the election judge there said.

“We have done everything we can, talking to the voters,” Barger said.

Signs with the words “ALERT” were posted above every machine. It tells people to click the party name or candidate name rather than what appears to be the checkbox next to the names.

The issue has been that when people go to click the checkboxes, the machine thinks people are clicking the box above where another party is.

The sign also encourages people to review their selection before printing their ballots.

When we asked voters at the polling location if they had been directly told about the issue or told verbally about the above instructions, most said they had not.

“I do think that’s something that should have been verbalized to more people,” said Roswell Manning, referring to the problem. She said it was easy to miss the sign.

Poll workers spending more time to explain it to voters would have extended lines, Barger said.

He conceded that because the onus is on the voter, it is possible that some voters didn’t follow the instructions and didn’t double-check their ballots, which would mean some votes were cast for candidates other than who they wanted to vote for. Barger hopes that did not happen, he said.

He says the results of the election are not in question.

“I’m confident in it, then I hope the citizens of Madison are in it too because I hope they are confident in me,” Barger said.

23 Kentucky counties use the same ballot-counting machines Madison County uses, and he says some of them have faced the same issue, but he isn’t sure how many.

It’s possible in some cases that voters trying to vote Republican were instead shown they had selected a Republican. It all depends on the order they are listed, which is determined by previous election results.

The exact cause of the issue is still being determined.

“We don’t know what’s happening; I’ve told you what we think happened,” Barger said. “But until we get in-depth into the machine and actually understand, it’s larger than I think we assume it to be.”

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