Johnson County to change election equipment before May Primary

JOHNSON COUNTY, Ind – The Johnson County Election Board and Commissioners are cutting ties with software vendor that caused system crashes which resulted in thousands of voters waiting in lines for hours during the November 6 election.

The Johnson County Commissioners voted Monday to adopt Election Board recommendations that the county terminate its contract with Omaha-based Election Systems and Software.

“We just want to ensure that we have a good election,” said Johnson County Clerk Trena McGlaughlin.  “We don’t want to have any issues this year.  And we want to make everyone happy.”

An investigation by Ball State’s VSTOP team, for the Indiana Secretary of State, determined ES&S systems were not properly set up for the high voter turnout the county saw on election day.  A system slow-down quickly brought voting to a standstill at multiple voting sites across the county.  Thousands of voters were left waiting in line for several hours as election officials and technical advisors struggled to get e-poll books back up to speed.

The VSTOP investigation also determined a work-around offered by ES&S violated Indiana election law by rendering voting sites unable to communicate with each other over the computer system.  That could have made it possible for a person to vote more than once at differing polling sites.

The investigation and Election Board made several recommendations and requests for ES&S to ensure future elections would not be hampered by similar computer issues.

“We had asked for some specifics to be done for this year’s election and they didn’t agree to all those recommendations that we had,” McGlaughlin said.

In terminating the contract with ES&S, county officials will contract with a company called KNOWiNK for 90 new electronic poll books.  KNOWiNK has a central office in Indianapolis.  McGlaughlin said the Apple-based tablets are much more user friendly and should be easier for poll workers to use.  The contract is expected to cost roughly $166,000.

In addition, the county plans to rent 80 new voting machines from Chicago-based RBM Consulting.  That rental agreement is expected to cost around $116,000.

The changes will leave county election officials a short window of time to prepare for the Primary Municipal election coming up on May 7.  McGlaughlin expects the new e-poll books to arrive within the next week.  The voting machines could arrive in early March.  Election officials and poll workers will have to train on the new equipment and be familiar with the systems before election day arrives.

McGlaughlin said KNOWiNK and RBM officials have pledged to have representatives on hand for the training.

“And they will train myself and our voter staff and all of our poll workers on how to use the machines,” McGlaughlin said.

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