Report: Some issues with voting machines

Certain voting machines used around the state experienced serious problems on Election Day, a new report indicates.

The Virginia Department of Elections released the interim report on voting machine performance, use and certification on Wednesday that identified security concerns with WINVote touchscreen equipment. The report cites particular concerns with the wireless capability of the system.

Approximately 20 percent of the precincts across the state — 29 localities — use WINVote machines. Warren County is the only locality in the Northern Shenandoah Valley region that uses the equipment. Warren County General Registrar Carol Tobin said Friday that she saw the same report and participated in a conference call with election officials on Thursday.

“We’ve not experienced the problems that they refer to in that [report] so, you know, we have every confidence that, you know, these machines are great up until we saw that,” Tobin said.

McAuliffe called for an investigation into voting machine irregularities in response to reported problems several voters experienced during the November election. Commissioner of Elections Edgardo Cortés presented a proposal to the State Board of Elections to conduct the first comprehensive review undertaken of voting equipment used across the commonwealth. The board unanimously approved the proposal on Nov. 24.

The State Board of Elections plans to hold a public hearing to consider all options available to address the concerns raised in the report, including the decertification of the equipment.

The registrar said she has to wait and see what the state plans to do about the machines before the county can act.

Warren County began using the WINVote touchscreen machines for the November 2005 election. As far as any problems with the equipment, Tobin said the machines can turn off if someone does not keep them plugged in.

“But we test every machine before it’s put into action on Election Day,” Tobin said. “This came kind of as a total surprise to us as well.”

The General Assembly passed legislation in 2007 prohibiting registrars from buying new, touchscreen equipment such as the WINVote machines, Tobin noted. Registrars can repair the machines but must replace them with different equipment.

“We do the best we can and we always want the best integrity and pureness of all elections and we make sure that happens,” Tobin said.

Tobin said it would cost the county quite a bit to replace the 67 machines it owns. Her office has tried to replace machines through its capital improvements budget over the years.

The General Assembly this session did not support an initiative pushed by the governor that sought to use state money to help localities replace their voting machines. The initiative also would have reimbursed some localities that had already spent money to replace their equipment.

“We’re hoping at some point maybe there’s a grant or something, you know, but at this point it doesn’t look like that [will happen],” Tobin said.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com