Stokes County, NC May '06 Primary

I recently had a job working for Printelect in support of the ES&S M-100 voting machine.
The following is a brief report on this job.

Stokes County Report
May 1:

I arrived in Danbury and met the Director of Elections, Olivia Robbins. She is having the machines, both M-100's and AutoMark's, delivered to the precincts throughout the afternoon. Two of the county's maintenance guys were driving a cargo box truck each to cover the county's twenty precincts.

The M-100's were being shipped out installed on the ballot boxes with the memory cards installed. The hardshell cases for the M-100's were not shipped out. The explanation for this procedure was that Director Robbins wants to make the procedure as simple as possible for the poll workers. This procedure struck me as having poor physical security for the machines and memory cards. The access door to the memory card was not secured in any way. All the precincts are in locations where many people have physical access.

Director Robbins also reported that the AutoMark's are hard to set up. She stated that their weight and size were a problem for her and her staff. She also reported the time it takes to test the AutoMark's setup as a problem.

During the course of the afternoon I met two of the Board of Elections members, the IT department member that will handle the Unity application on election day and several chief judges.
May 2:

I began the day roving to Danbury from my home. I visited nearly 30% of the precincts by 11:30 am. I spent much of the afternoon in Danbury at the Board of Elections office. I ended the day by roving out of the county taking a different route. I noticed only one hardware problem throughout the course of the day.
West King:

The American Legion Hall on Main St also hosts the county fair. I met all the judges at the door as they had just had a problem. The M-100 had rejected a ballot, the judges determined that a pencil had been used to mark the ballot.

I observed that the control access panel on the ballot box was open. As we are discussing the pencil marked ballot I observed several voters trying to slide their ballot under the M-100. The PC card slot access panel on the M-100 is not secured. I advised them to close and lock that panel. I closed the panel but did not observe anyone locking it.

The AutoMark was off to the side of the M-100 not in the area where the voting booths and the handicapped voting booth was setup. The screen was covered with a piece of cardboard. The judges explained that several voters had slid their ballot into the AutoMark thinking it was the tabulator.
East King:

I arrived at Poplar Springs United Methodist Church and had to hunt for a close parking space. The AutoMark machine here had not been booted up. I started the machine. It was placed about eight feet from the M-100, not in the general voting area. A Board of Elections member arrived and gave me easy to follow directions to three more precincts.
Chestnut Grove:

Mt. Olive Elementary School hosts this precinct. The counter access panel was open here as well. The Chief Judge locked the panel. I mentioned that I observed voters trying to slide ballots under the M-100 at the West King precinct. They had just finished counting the ballots, I'm not sure why. But they knew they were a ballot short. The Chief Judge unlocked and opened the counter access panel. There was the missing ballot. I retrieved the ballot with the long blade of a pocket knife. The Chief Judge fed the ballot into the M-100.

This was the only precinct that had the AutoMark setup in the general voting area instead of next to the M-100. The Chief Judge reported that they moved it because voters were trying to “cast their vote” on it rather than the M-100.
Mt. Olive:

Sauratown Volunteer Fire Department was my next stop. Nice place, they have an emergency generator. Sheriff Mike Joyce was out glad handing at this precinct. The feed tray on the AutoMark was not open, I opened the feed tray. Chief Judge reported no other problems.
Wilson's Store:

South Stokes Fire Department served as a precinct on this day. I had to open the feed tray on the AutoMark here as well. The Chief Judge reported no other problems.

I arrived at the Danbury Fire Department at lunch time. The Chief Judge reported no problems.
Board of Elections Office:

I discovered what a social event election day is in Stokes County. Director Robbins and two volunteers are fielding calls from voters and poll workers. There were homemade goodies and I was encouraged to help myself.

A call came in from the Francisco precinct. Their M-100 was running on battery power and apparently had been all day. After three cell phone calls were dropped a board of elections member arrived and resolved the issue. She later reported to me that they had both the AutoMark and M-100 connected to the same power strip. When she moved the M-100 to another receptacle it worked.

Director Robbins informed me she has an AutoMark that will not start up correctly. At her suggestion I agreed to test the machine. She supplied an “example” memory card, ballots and a used ink cartridge. The machine began booting but stopped with an error message. I left an exact copy of the error message with the Director Robbins. I repeated my test three times with the same results each time.

All the Board of Elections members arrived by 2:30 to count the absentee ballots at 3:00pm. These folks were determined to get me from 135 pounds to 155 pounds before I left Stokes County. I trusted the food since members of both parties were sharing. Many ballots were rejected due to over voting or incorrect marking. These ballots were set aside for hand counting. One absentee ballot tore and jammed in the M-100. This is the only machine related problem I observed. Ballots that had been folded needed to be carefully fed into the M-100.

About 5:45 pm I started roving out of Stokes County.
East Walnut Cove:

I missed the voting site entrance on the first pass. The principle of Southeastern Elementary directed me to the correct entrance. The Chief Judge reported no problems.
West Walnut Cove:

I missed this one too and had to go about three blocks past it to turn around, it's in the Walnut Cove Fire Department. The Chief Judge at this precinct reported that two voters had used the AutoMark. One was a poll worker. He reported no problems.

My last stop was Germanton Elemtary School. I'd met this Chief Judge on May 1 so we stood outside and smoked. He reported an exciting day of unexpected events. Parking confusion with a school event, robbery and police chase that locked down the school but no problems with the machines. He was looking forward to closing out the M-100 over their old systems.

Director Robbins has a negative attitude toward the AutoMark. This attitude is being passed down through the ranks. With the exception of the Chestnut Grove precinct every precinct I visited had the AutoMark setup beside the M-100, not in the area set aside for voting booths. By the Director's report the table kits for these machines arrived in Danbury around 11:00 pm May 1. These tables were not deployed on election day.

I would consider the handling of the ballot boxes, M-100's and memory cards to be physical access security problem. I am not familiar with the legal requirements but from a general security standpoint Director Robbins is allowing far too much physical access to the M-100's and the memory cards. By shipping the M-100's attached to the ballot boxes any protection offered by the hardshell cases for the M-100's is lost.

I see a potential problem for Printelect and/or ES&S if these basic physical security issues are not addressed. These are not hardware or software issues, just procedural problems in this county.

All and all an easy and interesting couple of days of "work".