Like their counterparts in Wisconsin, elections officials in Ohio and Kentucky declare election results final without verifying the accuracy of electronically tabulated vote counts. In Wisconsin, poll workers reliably check that the machines counted the right number of ballots to make sure we voters didn’t stuff extra ballots into the machines, but no one checks whether the computers counted our votes correctly–even sometimes when the output looks funky. (There is no other computer-dependent official or manager who does not have some routine way to notice when and if his or her computer output is incorrect. We just don’t tolerate that–except in elections.)
Following last week’s elections, questions are swirling around the Kentucky governor’s race, in which a Tea Party candidate who was behind in the polls beat the incumbent Attorney General by 9 percentage points for the Governor’s seat. According to Fox News, the Tea Party candidate “never held public office…was shunned by the state’s Republican political establishment when he challenged McConnell in the 2014 Senate primary…never took any meaningful steps to repair those relationships…refused assistance from party officials…was mostly self-funded, and did not court influential donors.” Democrats running for other statewide offices won their races, indicating that the voting machines counted votes for a Tea Party governor from tens of thousands of the same ballots from which they counted Democratic votes for Attorney General and Secretary of State. It’s possible, but it’s the sort of anomaly that would routinely be questioned, investigated, and resolved if the computers doing the tabulating were anything other than voting machines.
In Ohio, as explained at this link, the Secretary of State reported wildly fluctuating referendum results during the evening, including some instances of vote totals going down as more precincts reported in. Again, it’s possible that an innocent and ultimately inconsequential glitch caused the suspicious results, but why should voters have to guess or take the word of elections officials that it was ‘just a glitch’? It’s the sort of curious circumstance that would surely be looked into and explained in any computer-dependent activity other than an election. Unfortunately, we will never know because in Ohio, like in Wisconsin, they don’t investigate or resolve voting-machine output anomalies when the electronically tabulations put the vote totals outside a small recount margin.
But in Wisconsin we could. Our state law mandates a paper record of every ballot; our poll workers reliably preserve a complete and accurate record of our votes; and our county boards of canvass are tasked by statute to attest that the results are ‘complete and true.’
Before the critical elections in late 2016, there is still time to work with our county clerks and county boards of canvass to make sure they understand the issues and are ready to notice any anomalies and take action to resolve them before they certify election results as final. Find our more by visiting this website, or by scheduling an Election Integrity Road Show for your community group.