Mercer renewed its arrangement with Dominion in March, authorizing a $2.8 million deal for equipment and support services. Now, NJ County is reporting a problem with Dominion voting systems.
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To guarantee that the county could count every vote on Tuesday, Mercer County authorities inked a $2.8 million contract with Dominion Voting Systems this past March.
It is still unclear exactly what transpired in Mercer County. Although all votes cast on paper ballots were ultimately processed, the problem attributable to an unidentified coding error on the ballots caused the counting to take all night and irritated several voters.
On Wednesday, officials announced that they had started an investigation. However, they claimed that the Dominion scanners set up to check those votes as they were cast were not accepting the coding markings printed on the paper ballots.
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There is still no clear explanation for why that happened.
“We know there was a discrepancy in the timing marks that are used by the scanners,” explained Mercer County Clerk Paula Sollami Covello. “We’re hoping to figure it out.”
She stated that the Mercer County Prosecutor’s office had also been notified about the situation.
In a statement, Dominion executives claimed that the problem in Mercer County was a printing problem.
“The Dominion tabulators functioned exactly as they should by rejecting incorrectly printed ballots,” said a spokeswoman. “We are actively working with Royal Printing and Mercer County election officials on this issue.”
The Mercer County Board or Superintendent of Elections will get legal counsel from the office of the state attorney general, if required. Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin is dedicated to protecting the freedom to vote, according to a spokesperson.
“Yesterday the Attorney General’s office worked to get the word out to all Mercer County voters that paper ballots were available in all precincts, that all polling locations were open, that paper ballots are safe and secure, and that their votes would be counted,” said spokeswoman Sharon Lauchaire.
The timing marks — black lines on the sides of the paper ballot — are at issue because they indicate the scanner at every polling district which election contests are being voted on, allowing the machine to calculate the results. According to a voting expert close to the situation in Mercer County, if the code is not recognized by the machine’s programming, the ballot will not be accepted.
Sollami Covello reports that while a test run for the election on Tuesday proceeded without a hiccup, there was allegedly a change made to the actual paper ballot before voting started, according to officials, and the voting machines would not accept the ballots.
“There is a difference between the ballots,” she verified, contrasting what was used during the pre-election test with the ballots marked by voters on Election Day. However, she noted that the same-day ballots printed for the county had been submitted to Dominion, which she said had signed off on them.
No one was denied the right to vote because the votes were being recorded on paper. According to the county clerk, everyone who came up to vote could cast a ballot.
Voters can submit their marked votes into the machines for subsequent tabulation via a slot on top of the scanner, she pointed out. The only variation in the counting was that the votes had to be carried to Trenton and scanned later in the evening on high-capacity scanners housed in the county’s Board of Elections, a bipartisan panel, instead of having voters scan them in directly at the polling places, she explained.
“This process is actually used in many other cities in the U.S.,” she stated, emphasizing that both political parties in Mercer County agreed the process was transparent and fair.
Sollami Covello stated that all but 60 of Mercer’s 243 election districts had been tallied and published by Tuesday night, along with the results of the machine-assisted early voting that had taken place over the previous week. On Wednesday, the remaining same-day ballots cast on Election Day were scanned and counted.
Voters in Mercer expressed their displeasure with the difficulties they had at the ballots on Tuesday during the day. Anthony Petracca, a resident of Hamilton, claimed he attempted to cast his ballot at the Nottingham Fire Station early in the day but ultimately left his completed paper ballot on the voting machine because a worker would not take it.
“There were some folks working there that didn’t know what was going on — not their fault,” Petracca said. “The machines weren’t working for whatever reason and the lines were just building. Nothing was happening. They were attempting to make some sort of phone calls but there was no answer.”
Eddie Glaude Jr., a Princeton University professor of African American studies and a frequent guest on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, claimed that when he went to cast his ballot at the Lawrence Township Municipal Building at around 6:30 in the morning, he had to fill out a provisional ballot.
“As I was walking on down the steps, I looked at this guy’s face. He was despondent,” Glaude said. “He said it was a mess down there.”
Sollami Covello stated that the county had Dominion and other IT specialists on site to solve the situation, but to no effect as the broad troubles persisted into Tuesday afternoon.
According to county records, Mercer renewed its arrangement with Dominion in March, authorizing a $2.8 million deal for equipment and support services, and Sollami Covello stated on Wednesday that the county was working with the firm.