Apr. 19, 2006
9 area counties ponder paper ballots
By Niki Kelly
The Journal Gazette
INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana Election Commission informed 47 Indiana counties Wednesday that new MicroVote Infinity machines contain uncertified software, meaning they cannot legally be used in the May 2 primary election.
Of those counties, 22 depend solely on the Infinity system – including Adams, Kosciusko, Wells and Whitley counties.
The other 25 counties – including Allen, DeKalb, Huntington, Noble and Wabash – purchased the Infinity system to meet accessibility requirements for voters with disabilities but are relying on certified MicroVote 464 machines as their primary voting system.
Only two area counties are fully unaffected – LaGrange and Steuben – because they have a different vendor.
The commission is working with MicroVote to certify the software, but there is no guarantee that will happen in the next 13 days.
The worst-case scenario could be paper ballots for the May 2 primary.
“If it’s every single one, we’re going to have to copy a whole bunch of paper ballots and count them by hand,” said Kosciusko County Clerk Sharon Christner, who has 49,000 registered voters. “That’s not something I’m looking forward to.”
She conceded she knew the software being installed was uncertified by state election officials but said MicroVote officials assured her it would be soon.
But MicroVote didn’t even file the application for certification until Tuesday. Now it is waiting on required documentation from an independent testing laboratory that the software meets federal election standards. That testing could be completed by Friday or next week, according to testimony Wednesday.
At that point, the commission could have an emergency meeting and certify the software.
Commission members were taken aback Wednesday by MicroVote’s confirmation that it had installed uncertified software in 47 counties using the Infinity system.
“I don’t understand how you were shipping and testing uncertified software,” Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler II said. “We consider this a problem of your making.”
He said the commission would focus on getting the software certified so the machines can be used May 2.
“We’re going to get this fixed,” Wheeler promised.
But he said there could be consequences in the future when the commission investigates how the problems occurred. The only punishment the commission can levy is to bar the company from selling or marketing new equipment in Indiana.
But Secretary of State Todd Rokita – who opened hearings into possible violations this week – can fine the company $300,000 per violation.
MicroVote President James Ries told the commission his company would cover the cost of additional expenses that might be caused by the software snafu.
He and others stressed, though, that while the software hasn’t been certified by state officials, there have been no reported problems with it and it has been working properly in tests.
Although Allen County doesn’t depend solely on the Infinity system, Allen County Election Board member Andrew Downs said there could still be problems.
He noted that local officials chose not to program all their certified MicroVote 464 machines because they knew at least one new Infinity machine would be in every polling site.
That leaves the county several hundred machines short, he said.
“So, we’re half ready for an election,” Downs said.
DeKalb County Clerk Jackie Rowand, who is using the Infinity system only to serve voters with disabilities, said she knew the machines were uncertified but was told they would be by Election Day.
She also seemed confident in the system’s ability to accurately tabulate votes.
“The testing will be fine. I’m sure of that,” Rowand said. “I think some of the reason it wasn’t certified is that every time MicroVote met the election division’s requirements, they changed them.”
© 2006 Journal Gazette and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.