Public To Tipp. Co. Election Board: Change System Or "Look Like Idiots"

Feb 8, 2019

In 2018, long lines at polling places were the result as much of systemic dysfunction as of high voter turnout.
Credit Chris Morisse Vizza/WBAA Radio

The Tippecanoe County Election Board has begun discussing how to improve upon the last several years of electoral dysfunction in the county.

At an unusually well-attended board meeting Friday, members of the public and employees of the board of voter registration laid bare a number of issues the county faces, from long lines at polling places to aging and faulty equipment to public distrust of a flawed process.

Longtime election worker Mike Smith testified that "The perception of the public is that this is a mess." Smith said the county needs to make changes quickly "...or we're all going to look like idiots."

It’s that process that Ken Jones of the League of Women Voters of Greater Lafayette wants addressed. He notes the county knew even before the 2018 election cycle that laptops on which voters sign in had problems.

“So that fact that people knew about this and yet the problem wasn’t fixed speaks to a problem in the process. And it has to do with either hardware control, software control, or it could have to do with what are the processes for detecting problems and responding to problems? Did the right people understand there was a problem?”

County Clerk Julie Roush, who’s just beginning her first term, says the county’s vendor, Votec, has agreed to replace all the faulty laptops at no cost to the county and the company's CEO has taken responsibility for the last several years of snafus. But Roush also suggested renting new machines for next year’s elections – machines currently sitting in a warehouse in Chicago.

Brian Mangus, the Democratic Co-Director of the county’s elections and voter registration division, raised concerns about the security of such a move -- especially if chain of possession for the machines cannot be documented. However, Mangus says even though Votec’s system has had multiple issues, it’s still better than what the county has before switching vendors in 2016.

“The company [Votec] is stepping up and wanting to fix those problems and I admire that, because we didn’t get that from our previous vendor," he says. "So certainly I think we’re headed in the right direction."

The Election Board will decide at a later date how to replace the county’s voting machines, which are also more than a decade old and do not employ a paper ballot backup.