Election System Responsible for 'Glitch' in Antrim County, MI Used in Every Swing State

In this Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017 photo, Renee Phifer, Rockdale County board of elections assistant director, left, demonstrates a new voting machine at a polling site to Kelly Monroe, investigator with the Georgia secretary of state office in Conyers, Ga. Last summer, a security expert came across a gaping hole in Georgia's election management system. The revelation prompted a lawsuit seeking to compel Georgia to toss all of its touchscreen voting machines and replace them with a system that provides a paper record of every ballot cast. Georgia is one of five states where no such record exists. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Officials from the Michigan Republican Party and the Republican National Committee held a press conference Friday morning to confirm that a glitch tabulating software in Antrim County, Michigan, had “caused a 6,000 vote swing against our candidates” and had been rectified after ballots were recounted by hand. (Our Nick Arama covered the original story, in which officials announced that announced vote totals didn’t match the tabulators.)

When the discrepancy was first revealed Wednesday, it was believed that 32 other counties in Michigan used the same software that was used in Antrim County. According to the Michigan GOP chair, a total of 47 counties in Michigan use that same software.

Curious as to what this software was, I investigated and found that Dominion Systems was the provider for Antrim County. According to their website, they actually service 65 of 83 counties in Michigan.

Where else are they?

Interesting. It turns out that Dominion has the contract for the entire state of Georgia – and the statewide rollout was in 2020.

During 2019’s test run, there were multiple issues. A now-deleted Atlanta Journal Constitution article detailed “a glitch” that surfaced when six counties tested the system:

A glitch with Georgia’s new voter check-in computers caused delays in most of the six counties testing it, causing some precincts to stay open late to accommodate voters who left without casting their ballots.

The problem occurred in at least four of the six counties where the new voting system was being tested Tuesday before it’s rolled out statewide to 7.4 million registered voters during the March 24 presidential primary. Most Georgia voters were still using the state’s 17-year-old voting technology Tuesday.

Poll workers weren’t able to create voter access cards on new voting check-in computers manufactured by KnowInk. Those cards activate touchscreen voting machines so that they display the ballot associated with the jurisdictions where voters are registered.

The problems weren’t rectified by the time of the 2020 primary, which was moved to June due to the coronavirus pandemic. According to the New York Times:

Georgia’s statewide primary elections on Tuesday were overwhelmed by a full-scale meltdown of new voting systems put in place after widespread claims of voter suppression during the state’s 2018 governor’s election.

Scores of new state-ordered voting machines were reported to be missing or malfunctioning, and hourslong lines materialized at polling places across Georgia.

Some people gave up and left before casting a ballot, and concerns spread that the problems would disenfranchise untold voters, particularly African-Americans. Predominantly black areas experienced some of the worst problems.

While the worst problems were reported in greater Atlanta, no corner of the state had a fully functional voting experience, officials said. Nikema Williams, a state senator and the chairwoman of the Georgia Democratic Party, said that by 7:10 a.m., she had 84 text messages reporting polling sites that didn’t open, machines that didn’t arrive and lines that stretched for blocks.

There were still problems Tuesday. Politico reported:

A technology glitch that halted voting in two Georgia counties on Tuesday morning was caused by a vendor uploading an update to their election machines the night before, a county election supervisor said.

Voters were unable to cast machine ballots for a couple of hours in Morgan and Spalding counties after the electronic devices crashed, state officials said.

The companies “uploaded something last night, which is not normal, and it caused a glitch,” said Marcia Ridley, elections supervisor at Spalding County Board of Election.

What did they upload? Who knows…

“That is something that they don’t ever do. I’ve never seen them update anything the day before the election,” Ridley said. Ridley said she did not know what the upload contained.

Gabriel Sterling, voting system implementation manager in the secretary of state’s office, told reporters that the issue likely was a dataset that got uploaded to the systems, but that they don’t know for certain. He did not say if the dataset was uploaded by the voting machine vendor.

Totally normal, right?

Dominion also just rolled out in Maricopa County, Arizona, where there have been rumors that ballots filled out with Sharpie markers were being rejected by the machines. While Dominion denies that Sharpie use affects the ballot tabulation, there were problems with tabulating Sharpie-filled ballots in another swing state, Pennsylvania, when Dominion machines debuted there in 2019.

In Jefferson County, which also debuted its Dominion system, poll workers reported problems with Sharpie markers bleeding through the paper ballots and causing them to be rejected, according to chief clerk and elections director Karen Lupone.

It wasn’t happening in every precinct, but Lupone advised poll workers to stop using the markers in favor of black pens packed in their equipment bags as a backup in case the Sharpies ran dry or extras were needed.

Dominion had advised using permanent markers, Lupone said.

And it wasn’t just that one county.

Armstrong County Democratic Committee Chairman Steve Atwood has been hearing about the issue with Sharpie markers, too.

Atwood said he’d visited six polling places by Tuesday evening.

“At a lot of them, the markers bled through and voters had to redo their ballots,” Atwood said. “They’re small complaints, but I thought that was a big issue – if you have markers bleeding through, throw them out and use something that works.”

Well, if the voters just re-do their ballots, what’s the problem? Well, the machines in Pennsylvania weren’t scanning fast enough. But if they’re scanned later, and there’s a problem, the voter wouldn’t have a chance to fix it. That’s a huge problem.

State Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York, says she started getting calls shortly after the polls opened Tuesday morning that the machines were jamming and causing delays. She said those problems could affect voters’ confidence in the election.

“If that ballot is rejected, for example if they over-voted for county commissioner, and that ballot is rejected, then that person has no way of knowing that their vote has been invalidated. That’s not acceptable,” she said.

“One machine per polling place was simply not enough to move smoothly,” county spokesman Mark Walters said in a statement. “The county also misjudged the time it would take to scan two ballot sheets per person.”

Walters said if ballots could not be immediately scanned by the machines, there is a way to store them so they can be counted later. In his emailed statement Tuesday night, he said ballots that were put in “emergency holding boxes will be scanned at the polling places.”

Those “stored” ballots weren’t always scanned. The Pennsylvania GOP had to bring a lawsuit to ensure that all York County ballots were counted.

One report the Pennsylvania GOP highlighted was out of York County where ballots at one polling location were being placed in a suitcase and were not scanned.

It was discovered that the suitcase was purchased by the county and provided by Dominion Voting Systems. The Pennsylvania GOP said around 4 p.m., it was estimated that 420 ballots were not counted.

The Pennsylvania GOP said that it has worked with the county since then to ensure the votes are counted and a stipulation has been signed and will be presented at the courthouse Wednesday.

The conditions in the stipulation are as followed, per the Pennsylvania GOP: the ballots in the suitcase are to be secured and transported with a county election official, in addition to a representative from the Republican and Democratic party, locked and secured in a bag and then will be scanned using the high-speed scanner.

One safety mechanism Dominion and other providers tout is that while voters might make their choices on a touchscreen machine, a paper ballot with a bar code is printed out where the voter can confirm their choices before inputting the paper ballot into a machine. Here’s the problem, according to a US News story:

Some of the most popular ballot-marking machines, made by industry leaders Election Systems & Software and Dominion Voting Systems, register votes in bar codes that the human eye cannot decipher. That’s a problem, researchers say: Voters could end up with printouts that accurately spell out the names of the candidates they picked, but, because of a hack, the bar codes do not reflect those choices. Because the bar codes are what’s tabulated, voters would never know that their ballots benefited another candidate.

Even on machines that do not use bar codes, voters may not notice if a hack or programming error mangled their choices. A University of Michigan study determined that only 7 percent of participants in a mock election notified poll workers when the names on their printed receipts did not match the candidates they voted for.

Dominion machines are being used in at least these Pennsylvania counties: Armstrong, Carbon, Clarion, Crawford, Dauphin, Delaware, Erie, Fayette, Fulton, Luzerne, Montgomery, Pike, Warren, York.

Dominion machines are also being used in numerous Wisconsin counties and in Clark County, Nevada. Considering the numerous problems with these machines and the documented “glitch” in Antrim County, Michigan, every county that uses this type of ballot counting machine — no matter the provider — should have a manual recount to ensure that the totals on precinct-level counting tapes match what is recorded.