Texas Voters Complaining That Machines Keep Changing Their Senate Vote

Texas Voters Complaining That Machines Keep Changing Their Senate Vote
Election '18

On Friday, the Houston Chroniclereported that several voters in Texas were having technical difficulties with ballots on their electronic voting machines.

Specificially, when some voters tried to use the "straight-ticket" party option, which allows them to automatically fill in every partisan office with the Democratic or Republican candidate, they reported that not all of their votes were tallied correctly. In particular, some Democrats complained that when they looked over their ballot, they noticed that the spot for U.S. Senate was either blank, or had selected Sen. Ted Cruz instead of El Paso Rep. Beto O'Rourke:

Several Democratic voters, for example, have complained the voting system indicated they were about to cast a vote for Cruz, a Republican, instead of Democrat O’Rourke as they prepared to cast their votes. Several people said they were able to get help from staff at the polling place and change their votes back to what they intended before finalizing their ballots.

Most of the 15 to 20 people who complained to the state said that their straight-ticket ballot left their vote for U.S. Senate blank, according to Sam Taylor, communications director for the Secretary of State. A spokesman for the Texas Civil Rights Project said the group has received about a half dozen complaints, mostly of Democratic straight ticket voters whose ballots erroneously included a vote for Cruz, and one Republican straight ticket voter whose ballot tabulated a vote for O’Rourke.

The offending machines, which have generated complaints in Fort Bend, Harris, Montgomery, and Tarrant Counties, are nearly a decade old, having first been certified in 2009, and are in use in 82 of Texas' 254 counties. State and county officials assert that the switched or blank votes are a known software glitch caused by human error, and say that upgrading the machines — which would cost $50 million in Houston, Dallas, and Fort Worth alone — is not feasible.

Voters who spot the error can correct it — the machines will display a list of all final selections before the voter casts the ballot. But voters should be careful to double-check, as it would be easy to miss the swapped vote before hitting the button.

Texas is not alone in this problem. On Tuesday, the NAACP filed a complaint in Georgia alleging that voters trying to cast a ballot for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams were instead getting recorded for Republican Brian Kemp, who also happens to be the Georgia secretary of state overseeing the election.

Electronic voting machines are coming under increased scrutiny as the aging technology exhibits not just software glitches but vulnerabilities to hackers. In the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, where Russian hackers targeted 21 states' voting systems, some states, like Virginia, opted to scrap electronic voting machines entirely and return to paper ballots.

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