Old computer system causes election problems

Posted at 7:49 PM, Aug 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-04 09:51:47-04

Getting election results takes so long because the equipment many local communities use is outdated, but clerks can't buy new computers any time soon.

The aging system caused problems at some polling stations in Lansing, with some ballot readers breaking down in the middle of the primary.

"The voter put their ballot in, it then gave an error message but accepted the ballot and didn't count it," explained Lansing Clerk Chris Swope.

That's only one example, Swope has a long list of problems that are all caused by outdated election equipment. The system is so old memory packs from each ballot reader have to uploaded on a computer that uses Windows XP, software Microsoft doesn't even make or support anymore.

Many communities can't send the results electronically, so Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum has to wait for someone to drive the memory packs to the courthouse in Mason so she can process the results.

"I can FaceTime my children, I can call my spouse by talking to Siri, but I still have to take an old outdated 8-track looking tape and jam it into a computer to read in election night results," Byrum said.

Even though she's ready to upgrade, Byrum can't. That's because the the Secretary of State's Office has to certify election equipment and it's still in the process of looking at new computers.

"It's very frustrating how are hands are tied," Byrum added.

The Secretary of State's Office is hoping to approve new election computers before the 2018 gubernatorial election. A spokesman told us they're in the process of getting bids from different companies.

Newer systems let clerks electronically send in results and some even let voters fill out their ballot on a touch-screen.

Even if the polling sites could get new equipment, it wouldn't be used in November because it's a presidential election.

"We're prohibited as election officials from using new technology for a presidential election," Byrum explained.

For now clerks are trying to work around the problems, and hoping it's the last election their equipment is out of date.

"We're going to have to focus pretty heavily on training our election workers," Swope said.