UPDATE: Ballot Scanner Mishap Looms Over Dearborn County Elections

Many ballot scanning machines may have been non-functioning on Primary Election Day due to dead batteries.

Ballots are collected at the Dearborn County Clerk of Courts Office at the Dearborn County Government Center in Lawrenceburg following the closure of the polls on Tuesday, May 8. Photo by Mike Perleberg, Eagle Country 99.3.

Update published at 10:20 p.m.:

Dearborn County Clerk of Courts Gayle Pennington confirmed Tuesday night that most of the county’s ballot scanning machines were disabled by dead batteries on Primary Election Day.

“We did our testing a few weeks ago. We sent our machines out (to polling places) over the weekend. Our inspectors had their (battery) packs. They went out and the batteries were dead in their packs,” Pennington told Eagle Country 99.3 following the final vote total.

Only about 11 of the 45 machines at the 45 voting precincts throughout the county were operational Tuesday, the clerk added.

The vendor for the county’s new ballot scanning machines – used for the first time in an election Tuesday – is Election Systems and Software. Regarding the batteries, Pennington said they were new in November 2017 and were supposed to have a five-year lifespan.

Some citizens have reported that they were instructed to stack their completed ballots outside of the ballot scanning machine instead of in a secure emergency storage bin found on each machine. Such keeping of the ballots could run afoul of the state election laws, York Township Democratic precinct chair Amanda Vinup-Noell alleged in a letter to county officials Tuesday (see below).

Pennington responded to that allegation stating that “Nobody stacked their ballots outside.”

Poll workers are trained – and were instructed Tuesday morning when the issue became apparent – that the ballots were to be stored in the emergency bin in the event the ballots would not be accepted into the machines. The county clerk says her staff stayed on top of the problem throughout the day.

“I am very confident that every vote was counted properly,” Pennington said.

As with any election, the unofficial election results published Tuesday night will need to be certified, she noted.


Original story published at 9:00 p.m.:

(Lawrenceburg, Ind.) – Election results have been slow to process following reported problems with voting machines in Dearborn County on primary election day.

In Dearborn County, voters fill out paper ballots using a pen. Completed ballots are supposed to be fed immediately into a ballot scanning machine, however, the machines were without power.

The problem was reported to be discovered by poll workers as voting precincts were set to open Tuesday morning in many – if not most of – Dearborn County’s polling locations. The culprit may have been dead batteries in the machines, according to various poll workers and voters who witnessed the issue.

This is the first election in which Dearborn County has used its new voting machines.

Amanda Vinup-Noell, a Democratic precinct chair in York Township, sent a letter to county officials claiming that some ballots were mishandled. In her “official complaint”, Vinup-Noell provided screenshots of Facebook posts from voters who said they were advised by poll workers to set their completed ballots in a stack outside the security of the vote scanning machine. The machines are equipped with a secured holding chamber for completed ballots when they cannot be scanned.

Later, Vinup-Noell said, “The Election Division informed me that the machines were now working. When I asked what had happened, I was told that the machines' batteries had died in the 2 weeks since they were charged and tested. That the PROM packs had to reprogrammed the day of the election, on site.”

“This means that the PROM packs were programmed inside polling locations which creates an opportunity for tampering and an increased possibility of error during the programming process due to distractions within the Polling location,” she said, alleging the improper handling of the voting machine mishaps.

Vinup-Noell said she is asking the Indiana State Board of Elections and the Indiana Secretary of State to investigate “and take criminal action if appropriate.”

Dearborn County Clerk of Courts Gayle Pennington, a Republican, has not yet commented on the matter as she is overseeing the vote tallying process Tuesday evening.

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