Imagine going to the polls and using a touchscreen voting machine to cast your ballot and as you select your choice, you notice it was flipped to something else. That’s exactly what happened to State Representative candidate Jim Moynihan earlier this week.
Moynihan, a republican candidate for the 56th house district, tells Illinois News Network his vote on a touch screen voting machine was initially being tabulated for his democrat opponent.
“Well, when I was (voting) on a lot of the cases, the check mark came up on the opponent of whoever I was trying to vote for, including trying to vote for myself,” he said.
Moynihan called an election judge to explain the situation and suggested he could fix the problem on his own, which she suggested he do.
“I came to realize that if I touched the box – and this is after a lot of trial and error, by the way – in the lower right-hand corner, I would get my desired result each and every time, but I couldn’t touch (the center of) the box,” he said.
After double-checking his ballot, he cast his vote and returned to the election judge to whom he’d originally reported the problem.
“She just kind of seemed, well, it wasn’t very important to her and I wasn’t sure a call was going to go out before anyone else was going to have a chance to cast a vote on that machine,” he said.
So, Moynihan took down the machine’s serial number and reported it to the Cook County board of elections.
Ted Menzel, Deputy General Counsel for the Illinois State Board of Elections, said Moynihan did the right thing and the State Board of Elections and local elections officials test machines vigorously, even on Election Day.
“The State Board of Elections tests the systems before they’re allowed to be used in Illinois,” Menzel said. “We do a pretty thorough testing election day. The touch screens do need to be calibrated to ensure where you touch lines up with the boxes and records the votes in the right place. And machines occasionally get out of calibration and need to be recalibrated. I haven’t heard anything that indicates the machine was defective other than needing to be recalibrated.”
Moynihan reporting the machine to the board of elections was the right thing to do, Menzel said.
Menzel also pointed out there is more than one electronic voting system in the state of Illinois and which system a voter may encounter depends on the decision made by their local election authority.
“We don’t have a single voting system that every election authority uses in the state,” he said. “We have a handful of different systems. The election authorities are allowed to use any system that has state board approval.”
He said it should be fairly obvious to a voter if there is a calibration issue with a touch screen voting machine and election judges are available to assist voters who may need help. On Election Day, both paper and touch screen are available to voters and they may choose which format they prefer.
Menzel insists safeguards are in place to ensure electronic voting equipment is functioning properly.
“We test the systems ahead of time, the individual election authorities test the systems ahead of time, following the election we do a random test of, I believe it’s 5 percent, of the equipment in the precincts, to make sure our totals match what we saw from election day,” Menzel said. “… the history of recounts and the like, we have not found that we have problems with the equipment working properly on Election Day.”
Moynihan said recent close elections highlight the importance of having properly calibrated voting machines to ensure that every vote is counted.
“With the thousands of machines, in the close races we have in this election cycle, a couple of machines that aren’t calibrated properly, it there are people aren’t paying attention, it could tip the scales,” he said. “It could change an election result. We have a privilege and a right to vote in this country, if the machines aren’t working properly, we’re denying somebody the vote that they meant to make.”
Menzel suggests any voter who believes there is an issue with a machine on which they are voting notify the election judges present.
Early voting continues throughout this week up to Nov. 2.
The 56th District covers portions of Schaumburg, Bartlett, Elk Grove Village, Hoffman Estates, Hanover Park, Palatine, Rolling Meadows and Roselle.