Ellis County Clerk Donna Maskus this week is trying to gather documents for Hays attorney John Bird, who wants to see the official audit logs that would prove the county’s electronic voting machines worked properly during the Nov. 6 General Election.
Bird has his doubts the county’s 69 iVotronic touch-screen voting machines accurately recorded votes, based on comparing voting trends for paper and electronic ballots in advanced voting to voting trends election night.
A former party chairman for the Ellis County Democratic Party, Bird has been acting on behalf of outgoing Rep. Eber Phelps. Phelps lost his 111th District seat in the Kansas House of Representatives by 35 votes to Ellis County Commissioner Barb Wasinger.
“It looked incongruous to look at the results precinct by precinct” on election day, Bird said in an interview Thursday. “It does not appear to me all of those machines were operating properly.”
In advance voting, Phelps was ahead and winning by 55 percent to Wasinger’s 45 percent, according to the paper ballots, the advanced paper ballots and the electronic voting on two iVotronic machines in the County Clerk’s Office, Bird said.
Then on election night, the situation was reversed, with Wasinger winning the machine voting by nearly the same percentage, he said.
“People had to behave in a way that was completely incongruous. On election day, it was almost exactly the reverse. It’s obvious to me that she should make sure those machines were operating properly,” Bird said.
Bird has referenced several times a 2007 Project Everest voting study for Ohio that examined electronic voting machines for security vulnerabilities. That analysis found an abundance of technical weaknesses, structural flaws and security failures, which led the researchers to conclude that iVotronics and some other electronic voting machines in use lack basic technical protections needed to guarantee a trustworthy election, their summary said.
The iVotronics, a product of Election Systems & Software, Omaha, Neb., are certified for use in Kansas by the Kansas Secretary of State. But they have been abandoned in some states where, for example, they’ve been observed flipping votes from one candidate to another.
He has also requested print-outs of the activity log for each iVotronic machine, which is an audit trail that shows if, and how, each machine would have been calibrated prior to the election and after. Calibration, he said, is required by Kansas’ election statutes.
“I’ve asked her to provide all voting machine data, including the logs,” he said, “which contains a performance history for each machine … If the machine was not scientifically calibrated, then just as likely it made a mistake.”
Maskus, the county’s chief election officer, has maintained all along that each machine was calibrated. She said Thursday her office will try to supply Bird’s request, but there could be a problem doing that with the 12-year-old voting machines.
“We have visited with the vendor, we are trying to see if it’s possible with our equipment,” Maskus said. “To see if it does, or doesn’t.”
After the Nov. 20 recount, Bird had asked the Board of Canvassers to request the audit logs for the machines to confirm calibration, but they declined. Instead, in a 2-1 vote, they certified the recount results that favored Wasinger.
Maskus said her office is also trying to supply the other documents.
“It is taking some time to compile all that he’s requested,” she said “We are busy working on it.”
Bird has asked for the voting results, precinct by precinct for both Wasinger and Phelps, and any write-in candidates.
There has been some question as to who is paying for the Nov. 20 recount. Maskus on Thursday said she’ll be sending the bill to Bird. He had previously paid a $399 bond when he requested the hand recount on behalf of Phelps.
“The state is not going to pay for it,” Maskus explained, “because he asked for a different process. He asked for each ballot to be hand tabulated, so the ballots couldn’t be run through our scanner. The statute says it must be the same process as was used election night.”
Paper ballots were hand counted, but Bird has maintained that the county didn’t hand count the electronic ballots since there was no print-out of each electronic ballot. Instead the recount was based on data reports from each machine, by ward and precinct.
Maskus said she hasn’t yet determined the cost of the recount.
While anyone in the 111th District can contest the election, Bird said he couldn’t say whether he or Phelps or the Democratic party will. First he wants to see the audit logs, which he described as “objective proof” the machines were calibrated.
“If she shows me a document that proves she calibrated the machines at those precincts, then there probably wouldn’t be a need to be a contest.”
Meanwhile, while Maskus has said she is confident the machines worked properly for the Nov. 6 election, she said she hopes to replace them with new ones. She’ll start with seeing what voting equipment is certified by the Kansas Secretary of State. From there, she plans to contact the various vendors and invite them to demonstrate their machines.
“Very much do I want to see Ellis County get upgraded equipment,” Maskus said. “The technology has changed.”