E-Poll Vendor Takes Responsibility For Some Election Night Problems

Nov 10, 2015

The Hamilton County Board of Elections held a public hearing on election night problems.
Credit Howard Wilkinson / WVXU

The Hamilton County Board of Elections spent two-and-a-half hours Tuesday morning delving into an investigation of last week’s election, which was plagued with problems caused by a new electronic poll book system.

One thing the board learned was this – the company that sold that sold it the $1.4 million system, Tenex, was willing to take the blame for the technical snafus.

And, from the testimony of 10 poll workers who had to deal with the new system, board members learned poll workers need more training – particularly on what to do when the electronic scanning of voters’ ID cards doesn’t work.

The problems on Election Day with the e-polling system were severe enough to convince a Hamilton County Common Pleas Court judge to order the polls stay open for an extra 90 minutes.

Tuesday, the four members of the board voted unanimously to spend $50,000 to pay all of the workers an extra $25 for staying on the job.

Ravi Kallem, the president of the software company Tenex, apologized to the board, the poll workers and the voting public for the problems.

Kallem assured the board that the problems would be “a simple fix” and could be accomplished in plenty of time for the March 2016 presidential primary.

One of the biggest problems encountered was that a programming error by Tenex set a wrong date. Voters who had registered after the August special election and before the Oct. 5 voter registration deadline were not showing up as registered voters when their IDs were scanned.

That probably accounted for several thousand voters being forced to cast provisional ballots – which will be counted before the election results are certified by the board Nov. 24.

“Change of this magnitude is going to come with problems, big or small,’’ Kallem said.

Tim Burke, the Hamilton County Democratic Party chairman who chairs the elections board, was pleased with Kallem’s assuming the blame.

“I appreciated his candor today in agreeing that one of the big problems we have identified was the result of a mistake that they made,’’ Burke said. “I appreciated his openness. There are some issues that we are going to have to deal with though.”

Most of the poll workers who spoke at the hearing said their three-hour training sessions on the new system were not enough; and that led to some of the problems on election day.

Marlene Kocher, who was a poll worker in Price Hill, said problems were encountered at the polling place where she worked. But she said that she believes that, in the long run, electronic polling will work.

“I personally think the system will be great when you get the bugs worked out; and you get the people the right training,’’ she said.

Burke said that what he heard from the poll workers who spoke “was very helpful.”

“I think everybody was very positive about having suggestions for how to ensure that the next election is going to go much more smoothly than the one last week,’’ Burke said.

The investigation will continue, board members said.

“We can’t offer a cure until we have a proper diagnosis,’’ said board member Alex Triantafilou, chairman of the Hamilton County Republican Party.

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, the state’s chief elections officer, has asked the board to submit its findings to him by Dec. 11.