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Mike Lawrence

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Printer problems

Hart InterCivic explains voting machine malfunctions

— Hart InterCivic, the Texas-based manufacturer of Routt County’s electronic voting machines, downplayed the mechanical problems that plagued voting in Routt County on Tuesday.

“There weren’t any problems with the machines themselves,” spokesman Josh Allen said. “No votes were lost, and everything was backed up – it was just pre-election administrative issues.”

Allen said malfunctions were caused by two things – improperly repairing printers on voting machines and improperly resetting the machines after pre-election testing.

The mechanical delays and a large Election Day turnout of about 4,000 voters left thousands of people, primarily in Steamboat Springs, waiting in lines for up to four hours before casting a ballot.

At the Steamboat Pilot & Today vote center on Curve Plaza, election officials shut down one of the four voting machines at about 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, election judge Jo Stanko said. By 6 p.m., officials had shut down a second machine at the center. Shortly after 7 p.m., as 150 people waited in line after polls closed, Hart InterCivic technician Audra Morris had all four machines running and recording ballots.

Because of Hart InterCivic policies, Morris could not respond to media inquiries. Allen said he spoke with Morris on Wednesday, and was told that the problems at the Pilot & Today vote center resulted from election staff attempting to replace ink or paper within a voting machine’s printer, rather than replacing the entire printer unit.

The printers on each machine printed a paper record of each ballot cast.

A voting machine’s security system will activate if it does not receive a signal from the printer within 15 to 30 seconds, Allen said, placing an error message on the machine’s screen and preventing use.

“That’s part of what contributed to the delays that were being experienced,” Allen said. “Those are really training issues.”

Several election officials Tuesday had difficulty starting up voting machines when polls opened at 7 a.m.

At the Fairfield Inn & Suites in Steamboat, Peggi Murphy of the county clerk and recorder’s office said one machine took an hour and a half to get up and running. Murphy also cited two minor problems during the day, involving paper used in printers.

At Yampa Valley Medical Center, poll watcher Joanne Tucker of the Routt County Democratic Party said two of the machines took 47 minutes to begin working in the morning, but “everything was up and smooth since 8 a.m.”

At the Routt County Courthouse Annex, election judge Shauna Lamansky said one voting machine took three tries to boot up in the morning.

Allen said a failure to properly re-set some voting machines, after pre-election testing or August’s primary election, caused the morning delays.

“That was probably the most difficult election day issue in Colorado,” Allen said. “Denver had all kinds of backups for very similar reasons.”

Allen said Hart InterCivic technicians were helping jurisdictions all across the country Tuesday.

“Anytime you have someone using the machines who doesn’t use them a lot, you’re going to have some procedural issues,” he said.

Allen referred to Election Day in Colorado as a “perfect storm,” because of a contentious midterm election that drew large amounts of voters to the polls, new security precautions utilized for electronic voting and a general election conducted with new voting machines.