Voting machines tested ahead of primary election

Published 9:54 am Thursday, April 20, 2017

With less than two weeks before the first primary for Vicksburg’s municipal elections, Warren County election support workers have completed tests on the 56 county voting machines that will be used for the primary.

Workers Donald Oakes and Jim Moore completed the work at the county warehouse on Clay Street where the machines are stored. Oakes said the sealed machines will be picked up by county workers April 27 and loaded on trailers for distribution to the 11 city precincts  — six in the North Ward and five in the South — May 1.

The process involves loading a memory card in each machine and testing it, using a voter card and a test ballot already downloaded in the machine to ensure the memory card’s vote count matches the number of votes cast on the machine.

“We have a card for each machine,” Oakes said. “We put the card in and verify that the memory card is working and will record the vote.”

The voter card is what allows someone to vote on the machine. It is given to the voter, who puts in a slot on the voting machine to activate it and vote. When the voter is finished, they hand the card to a precinct worker, who reprograms it for the next voter to use.

When the support workers test the machines, one of the first things they do is run a tape, a narrow strip of paper used to give a printout of the vote.

“If it shows a vote by someone’s name, we have to check that out, because that tape is supposed to show zeroes — a no vote,” Oakes said. He said the same practice is followed by precinct managers when they open the machines on election day.

The managers run three tapes. One is posted on the wall at the precinct to show voters the machines have been cleared from the prior elections. Another is put into an envelop for the elections commissioners and the third is kept in the machine and removed and placed in a packet that goes to the courthouse with the memory cards.

“If a tape shows a number by any name, they (precinct workers) have to shut the machine down and call us so we can determine what happened,” he said.

Once the machines are tested, they are sealed in several ways. A tape is places across the door for the memory card, and the doors covering the screen and slot for the card are sealed using a special tie. The seals are numbered and recorded and have bar codes. Before the machines are opened at the precinct, the seals are checked to make sure their numbers correspond to the numbers recorded by the workers when the machines are sealed. If there is a discrepancy, the machine is not opened until the problem is resolved.

Oakes said precinct workers also run periodic checks on the machine to ensure the number voters using the machine matches the number of voters who have registered to vote at the precinct.

“These machines cannot be affected by wifi or the internet,” he said.

Once the election is over, the machines are returned to the warehouse and prepared for the runoff election and later the general election. Each time, the machines are inspected and tested.

“Anytime you change the names on a ballot, they have to be tested,” Moore said.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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