Critics of this year’s municipal election process attended Friday’s Tippecanoe County Election Board meeting to express concerns over the accuracy of the electronic voting method and how some election day polling locations were unable to operate efficiently.
The accuracy of the machines was the most commonly raised concern throughout the meeting. The specific problem is the calibration of the machines, as this was the second time the county experienced this issue.
“So we also had a voting machine go down,” said Jennifer Teising, a poll worker of both this year’s election as well as the 2016 election. “It wasn’t calibrated correctly, so our voting machines are not working properly, and we’re having issues with them.”
With a far greater expected turnout in 2020 than the 15% turnout for the recent elections, Teising said current issues may only be amplified with more voters.
“I have serious concerns about our election machines,” she said.
The board asked if she had filled out any incident reports, but Teising said none were offered to her and none were visible, so she took her concerns to the board.
“I understand (the incident reports) were in a package and I know we talked about the need — and this came up earlier this year — the need to report any incident regarding problems so we can address those things,” said chair of the board Randall Vonderheide. “And so I suspect there’s a checklist regarding the materials that’s supposed to be included in each of the packets.”
Apparently, Vonderheide said, there has been a problem of people not opening the packets in the past.
Another voter, Susan Schafter, expressed more concerns over an uncalibrated machine she experienced while voting. The board pressed the importance of taking issues to poll workers.
The answer left Schafter unsatisfied.
“We have these machines that are being sent back to be recalibrated and come back and are still doing that same problem,” she said. “And then people are told that when they take the trouble to come to this meeting that, ‘Oh, you should have pulled the poll worker, that we’ll lock it up.’”
The reason the board wants to know if she told a worker, County Clerk Julie Roush said, was so they can pull the machine from future elections and retire them from use.
The raised concerns led Tippecanoe County Councilor Lisa Dullum to recommend the board make a formal request for money from the county’s “rainy day fund.” The purchase of new machines are scheduled for 2021, Dullum said, so requesting to get the machines a year earlier from the county’s $6 million fund before the 2020 elections may be a safer route.
“The county councilmen, the county commissioners are aware that we would like to have new machines,” board member Kent Moore said.
“I’m in no rush to get the equipment because I have confidence in what we have,” Vonderheide said despite the concerns raised by Dullum, poll workers and voters.
Another concern raised was the commonly misunderstood requirements for a valid voter ID. In one case raised, a voter’s passport card was denied despite it being listed as a valid on the state’s website. Fortunately, the voter had an alternative state-issued ID card.
Another case, which was raised by Teising, were her coworkers misunderstanding the ID requirements. A valid ID must be issued by the state or federal government and include a photo and expiration date.
“If we walked through (the requirements) before (voting) started, I think that should definitely be part of the training for the future because they didn’t understand addresses, they didn’t understand everything,” she said.
Though new poll workers are supposed to go through required trainings before working elections, returning workers can miss the training for a $10 fee, as Teising did. With a recent reinterpretation of the valid ID requirements by Roush — which led Purdue to issue new student IDs with a visible expiration date — the requirements seemed to be an issue.