Texas voters say the machines are changing their choices

October 30, 2018

In Texas, voters who want to support a party line—casting their ballots for  every Democrat, or every Republican, for example—need only push one button when they get in the booth. However, according to an October 26 report by The Hill, some early voters already are reporting a major problem with that mechanism: Their voting machines “erroneously” changed their straight-party selections to a blank ballot—or worse yet, to a vote for the candidate from the opposition party—in the state’s U.S. Senate race.

Local news affiliate ABC 13 reports that voters in several districts have said that when they select a button that allows them to vote for all members of one party at once, it has, in some cases, chosen the opposite candidate or no candidate at all specifically in the Senate race.

The problem allegedly exists for both Democratic and Republican voters—but the results give an advantage to Republican Senator Ted Cruz, who currently is locked in a tight battle with well-funded and popular Democrat Beto O’Rourke.,

Specifically, some Democrats report that the machines they used erroneously selected Cruz as their candidate of choice—while Republicans attempting to vote for Cruz have reported the machines dropping their votes and selecting no candidate at all.

“When I got to the end, I just so happened that I glanced at the screen, I saw Ted Cruz was selected as my senator,” a voter in Fort Bend County who attempted to vote straight Democrat told ABC 13.

An election administrator in Fort Bend County told the news station that he had informed the state’s secretary of state about the issue in years past, but that Texas authorities had failed to act.

Sam Taylor, a spokesperson for Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos told ABC 13 that the problem is caused by “user error,” and indicated that the election machine vendor could upgrade systems to fix the problem while stating that Texas has not directed the vendor to do so.

According to the fact-checking website Snopes, rather than being the result of a plot by one side or the other to subvert the U.S. Senate election, these voting anomalies are a known problem that surfaced during the 2016 election with the Hart eSlate voting machines used in about 33% of Texas’ counties.

Snopes reported this week, “[A]ccording to the Texas Secretary of State’s Office, the voting machines are not at fault. Rather, the problems reported are the result of “voters hitting a button or using the selection wheel before the screen is finished rendering,” which de-selects the pre-filled candidate selection.

“The issue is occurring primarily with the U.S. Senate race selections, because it is at the top of the ballot,” said Taylor.

Secretary of State Pablos put out an advisory telling voters and county election officials to adhere to the following steps, in order to cast their ballots correctly:

  • When voting a straight-party ballot, wait at least 3-5 seconds for all choices to be rendered on the eSlate voting machines. Counties in which voters have longer ballots may require additional time to allow the screens to load fully.
  • Once all the candidate choices for that particular party have been fully loaded, take your time to slowly review each choice in each race before advancing to the next screen.
  • When advancing to the next screen, be sure the screen is fully loaded before scrolling through to the subsequent pages.
  • Once you have reached the summary page, carefully review each choice listed to ensure the candidate selected is, in fact, the candidate for whom you wish to cast your vote.
  • If you find that one or more of your choices are displayed incorrectly on the summary page, hit the ‘PREV’ button and choose the candidate for whom you wish to cast your vote.
  • If any issues persist, ask for assistance from a poll worker at your polling location, and the poll worker will ensure that the machine is working properly and advise you on the proper steps to take to cast a ballot with only the candidates of your choosing.

In addition, Pablos offered an extra resource:”,In order to ensure that voters are able to operate the machines effectively,” he said, “voters casting their ballots on eSlate voting machines can take a test run of a simulated eSlate voting machine with an interactive online application available by visiting VoteTexas.gov.”

“We’ve heard from voters over a number of elections about this,” Ft. Bend County Election Administrator John Oldham told the ABC-TV affiliate. He said that the “user error” is most likely caused “ by voters simultaneously twisting the selection dial and pushing the enter button. It may not even be purposeful, but done by voters in a rush who don’t realize they are still interacting with both.”

Research contact: staylor@sos.texas.gov

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