County sees 15 percent of voters cast ballots

Officials from ES&S work on the county’s ballot scanner on Wednesday night before the final absentee and affidavit ballots were processed (Photo by Ryan Phillips, SDN)
SDN Editor

Network issues caused by hardware problems gave election officials headaches in Oktibbeha County late into Wednesday evening when the final unofficial Primary results were processed.

Unofficial results, which include absentee and affidavit ballots, showed 4,112 of Oktibbeha County’s 26,880 registered voters cast ballots, which comes out to a turnout of 15.30 percent.

The full results of Tuesday’s Primary were delayed on election night, from what officials believed to be a problem with the dongle cord used to connect the ES&S voting machine that works in tandem with a networked computer.

After the backup cord failed on Tuesday night, election officials were left with no choice but to wait on representatives from the state-contracted voting machine firm to physically bring a new dongle cord to the Oktibbeha County Courthouse.

Representatives from the company arrived Wednesday morning, and all of the ballots cast on machines in the county’s 20 precincts were processed.

Then other issues came up.

When processing absentee and affidavit ballots, the county’s scanner malfunctioned and officials from ES&S had to work on a faulty scanner head before those ballots could be processed.

The county’s scanner machine is also maintained by the outside firm, and Circuit Clerk Tony Rook said the issues highlighted aging equipment used in the election process.

“We certainly don’t want this to happen, but any time you deal with electronic equipment it's always a possibility,” Rook said. “It never threatened the integrity of the process.”

He then stressed the importance of having trained experts close by to address hardware and other technical problems when they arise.

On Tuesday night, election officials were left with no choice but to video-chat tech support from ES&S to help resolve issues, which yielded little results.

Rook then said it would be helpful for voting machine companies to recommend what local officials do in the future to minimize the chance of problems arising.

“We need an advanced understanding of the potential conflicts that can occur, if not, have somebody on call, even if it’s midnight, that can assist immediately,” Rook said.

ES&S representatives on site declined to comment on the issues in Oktibbeha County.

After the scanner was fixed, all of the absentee ballots - 225 in all - had to be re-scanned, with seven Republican ballots and five Democratic ballots rejected.

As for affidavit ballots, seven Republican ballots were counted, along with 11 Democratic ballots.

Rook, along with poll workers from across the county, lamented the low turnout, but problems on the ground at precincts were minimal.

"Every issue we had was easily resolved and the feedback I got was positive,” Rook said.