The RI Elections Council will not remove voting machines that have had problems
But the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island and Common Cause Rhode Island warned that removing the machines, which allowed voters to choose candidates on a touchscreen or using a remote control, would violate state laws and federal laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The board of elections had scheduled an emergency meeting for 10 a.m. Monday to discuss Elorza’s request, but the board issued a statement Sunday evening saying it was canceling the meeting “on the advice of legal counsel.” “. And that echoed the points made by the ACLU and Common Cause.
“The request to remove all ExpressVote equipment on the eve of the primary would leave people with disabilities without an accessible method of voting, in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act,” said the executive director of the Board of Elections. , Robert Rapoza.
“The board will convene a meeting in the near future to further discuss the ExpressVote equipment, as well as to receive a report regarding its use during the primary,” he said. “Of course, should further circumstances develop regarding any matter involving the electoral process in the State of Rhode Island, the board is prepared to meet and resolve any issues that may arise.”
The first sign of trouble with the new ExpressVote machines came on Aug. 30 when the Providence Elections Administrator called the Board of Elections to say poll workers and voters at the Doorley Municipal Building said they saw the name of ‘Elorza on the ballot as they used the machines. This has set off some alarms because Elorza is time limited and not showing up at any office this year.
The Spanish version of the poll turned out to show candidates from 2018 instead of 2022, and it was later revealed that Providence mayoral candidate Gonzalo Cuervo’s name was misspelled as “Gonzolo “.
Joe Vitale, Rhode Island account manager for Election Systems & Software, told the board last week that the issues were the result of human error.
“ES&S takes full responsibility for this error and apologizes to the Office of the Secretary of State, the Board of Elections, and affected voters in the State of Rhode Island,” Vitale said. “Going forward, we will put procedures in place to ensure this never happens again.”
The Board of Elections voted to create a written protocol for ballot verification that would involve the office of the Secretary of State, the Board of Elections, and ES&S, the state vendor.
The council looked into the possibility of using autoMARK machines that had been used in the past. But Vitale wrote to the board, saying that ES&S no longer manufactures or sells these machines, and he said the company last performed maintenance on these machines in 2020. “Since then, we’ve had four elections statewide with the failure rate increasing exponentially,” he wrote. “I think at least a third of those machines have problems.”
So Vitale urged the Board of Elections to proceed with the new ExpressVote machines
“Thirty-five communities have been using ExpressVote for early voting since August 24 and have reported no issues,” he wrote. “The other four communities using English and Spanish reported no additional issues. Therefore, ES&S sees no reason why you shouldn’t use these machines.”
Steven Brown, executive director of the ACLU of Rhode Island, said Monday he’s glad the state isn’t removing the ExpressVote machines just before the primaries.
“The mayor clearly overreacted to the issues that were raised about the new machines, but the council acted quickly to address the concerns,” Brown said. “The original issues have been discovered, and at least at this point I feel comfortable seeing them used (Tuesday).”
Brown noted that one issue will not be resolved by Tuesday: the printed ballots that voters receive after using the touchscreen are in English even if the voter chose to vote in Spanish. But he said the board had made it clear it wanted this issue resolved by November, and he said that was no reason to get rid of the ExpressVote machines on Tuesday.