from the almost-competent-handling-of-the-democratic-process dept
For all the talk about election interference from nation-states, there’s been not nearly as much concern about devices themselves threatening the integrity of the voting system. E-voting machines have long been an insecure mess. On top of that, they’re prone to introducing errors — either through flaws in the devices themselves or by users who aren’t familiar with how they work.
The latter seems to be the issue in Texas, where voters have been complaining about their votes being switched. What sounds like just another crazy conspiracy theory may be nothing more than software not behaving the way people think it should behave.
Some Texas voters are complaining that machines flipped their straight-ticket selections to the other party in key races during early voting, especially the much-watched Senate battle between Republican Ted Cruz and Democrat Beto O’Rourke.
“The Hart eSlate machines are not malfunctioning, the problems being reported are a result of user error — usually voters hitting a button or using the selection wheel before the screen is finished rendering,” said Sam Taylor, spokesman for the office of Secretary of State Rolando Pablos, who was appointed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.
This appears to be happening only to voters voting straight-ticket. (Gross. — Ed.) The software apparently populates tickets slower than voters are expecting. Hitting “submit” before it’s ready to move forward causes problems with candidate selection. The Texas Republican Party is warning voters to be patient and double-check that all candidates have been selected before moving on. The same thing is happening to Democratic straight-ticket voters, causing them to “vote” for Ted Cruz if they aren’t careful.
This would be somewhat comical if there was any way for voters or election officials to track which votes may have been flipped. But there isn’t. The move to paperless voting has eliminated the backup system everyone looks to when things go wrong: the paper trail. The Hart eSlate machines produce no receipts, leaving it up to voters to catch errors before submitting their votes.
The Democratic Party is blaming the government for not doing more, which is a very Democratic Party thing to do. In this case, the Republicans are in control of the state and the Democratic Party has chosen to claim the Republicans don’t care enough about the problem. The state’s government has pointed out e-voting machines only need to comply with state laws, not actually be accurate and/or idiot-proof. It points to the voting machines’ certification — which last happened nearly a decade ago — as evidence that the bare minimum requirements have been met.
It’s a mess and it’s probably not going to be fixed anytime soon. The state says it’s up to the counties to replace voting machines they don’t like. Counties likely don’t have the funding to do so immediately and there’s no way any county is going to hotswap e-voting machines with an election already in progress. The problems of the 2018 election will be kicked down the road to 2020 where it’s likely the same fears of voting interference will be stoked while the faulty machines causing the problems remain in place.