Vote-Tabulating Computer systems Might Trigger Alabama Election Delays

(TNS) — Adjustments that include using new vote-tabulating computer systems might trigger some delay in compiling and reporting leads to subsequent Tuesday’s main in Jefferson County, Probate Decide James Naftel mentioned.

Secretary of State John Merrill, who put the foundations for the brand new computer systems in place, mentioned they’re a further safeguard in opposition to hackers manipulating voting outcomes.

Below the brand new guidelines, counties are required to load the voting outcomes from precincts onto a stand-alone “hardened” laptop that can not be related to the Web.

Merrill mentioned his workplace supplied one “hardened” laptop computer to every county at a complete value of $247,000.

Merrill mentioned there was no indication that Alabama’s voting methods are susceptible however referred to as the brand new machines a proactive step.

“We all the time imagine we must be working onerous to enhance the safety, transparency, and accountability of our procedures,” Merrill mentioned.

Though the necessities are statewide, Merrill mentioned he doesn’t anticipate delays to be widespread.

“You’re not going to see delays in most likely 95 p.c of the areas within the state,” Merrill mentioned. “The outcomes will nonetheless are available in on the identical timeframe as they usually are available in.”

Madison County Probate Decide Frank Barger mentioned he doesn’t anticipate issues or important delays. Cellular County Probate Decide Don Davis mentioned the foundations is not going to change something in Cellular County and that the county already compiled vote totals on a “hardened” laptop that didn’t hook up with the Web.

Naftel mentioned Jefferson County, the state’s largest, can have some slowdown with new procedures due to its geographic measurement, with 175 precincts, and since officers received’t have the ability to compile votes at a number of areas, as has been the observe.

Each Alabama county makes use of paper ballots. Voters feed their accomplished ballots into scanners that report the votes on a flash drive. When the polls shut on election night time, the flash drives are taken to county courthouses and fed into computer systems to compile the outcomes.

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The distinction this yr is that the computer systems receiving the flash drives can be stand-alone machines used solely for that objective. They may report the outcomes onto a flash drive that can then to go a second laptop for transmission to the state.

Lee County Probate Decide Invoice English, chair of the Digital Voting Committee, a five-member panel created by the Legislature a long time in the past, defined the benefit of the brand new process. The committee certifies voting tools for counties to make use of.

“The brand new laptops do not need the aptitude of being related to the Web,” mentioned English, who has been probate decide since 2000 and was election supervisor within the county for 18 years earlier than that. “So there’s not a approach anyone might hack into and alter the outcomes on the pc the place we obtain the outcomes from the precincts.”

The information from the stand-alone laptop will go by way of thumb drive to a second laptop that’s related to the Web to ship to the secretary of state, English mentioned.

“The hacker, if he will get into our second laptop and adjustments it, we’ve nonetheless acquired the unique information from the precincts on laptop A,” English mentioned. “The safety is that no person can get to laptop A from the Web.”

In earlier elections, Naftel mentioned Jefferson County has compiled vote totals from the flash drives at 5 websites – Birmingham, Bessemer, Middle Level, Gardendale, and Homewood.

This yr, the flash drives will solely be processed on the two areas with the brand new “hardened” laptops in Bessemer and Birmingham.

The Bessemer location is feasible as a result of Jefferson County purchased a second “hardened” laptop computer after session with Merrill’s workplace, Naftel mentioned.

“As a substitute of us having the ability to course of outcomes from everywhere in the county and have these outcomes are available in over the county community to a central location, we’ve two of these computer systems,” Naftel mentioned.

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Naftel mentioned the county has labored with Merrill’s workplace and the state’s election administration software program supplier, Election Programs & Software program, to prepare for subsequent Tuesday, together with acquiring the second laptop.

One concern is that the county will be unable to offer real-time election night time reporting the way in which it has beforehand, when updates from the flash drives have been out there instantly on the county’s laptop community. As a substitute, Naftel hopes the county can approximate that with periodic printed studies on election night time. He mentioned the plan is to put up the periodic studies on the county’s web site.

“We’re going to do the most effective we are able to on election night time to make it as quick and environment friendly however as correct as potential,” Naftel mentioned. “And we’ll study from this one and see what we might have carried out higher and we’ll do it higher in June after which we’ll do it quite a bit higher in November. We might simply ask that folks put some belief within the course of that though it could be new that we’re working as onerous and quick as we are able to to get outcomes out to everybody in a well timed method.”

Naftel mentioned printouts of the vote totals from every scanner can be posted on the doorways of the precincts and within the jury room on the Jefferson County Courthouse. There are a complete of about 400 scanners within the county, with a minimum of two in each precinct.

“There’s an expectation that we will print out interim outcomes over the course of the night time, perhaps as soon as an hour or one thing like that,” Naftel mentioned. “However on the very least the media will have the ability to see and examine these end-of-night ballot closing studies from every voting machine.”

Merrill mentioned most counties compile totals at only one location so the brand new procedures received’t make as a lot distinction.

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Madison County Probate Decide Barger mentioned the county courthouse has been the one website used for compiling the vote totals from the precincts and that won’t change. Barger mentioned using the brand new stand-alone laptop would possibly trigger a slight lag in posting outcomes on the county’s web site however expects that to be minimal.

Lee County Probate English additionally doesn’t anticipate main delays.

“I don’t see a lot slowdown,” English mentioned. “It’s a further step for the employees on the courthouse to take the information off one laptop in a thumb drive and put it in one other laptop after which do the usual add that we’ve been doing.”

Naftel mentioned Alabama’s election system has inbuilt safeguards, together with the paper ballots that may confirm the digital rely. He mentioned he understands the aim of the “hardened” computer systems.

“However we’ve by no means seen something in Jefferson County that means there was any hacking of the outcomes or manipulation of the information or something like that,” Naftel mentioned.

The decide mentioned he hopes any delays on election night time are saved to a minimal.

“Individuals get nervous on election night time in the event that they’re simply not listening to something,” Naftel mentioned. “And we don’t need there to be an data vacuum.”

“I’d hope that by midnight we’ll have a way of the place we’re or we’ll be fairly darn near understanding what the outcomes are,” Naftel mentioned. “It is a main. This isn’t the final. So, turnout isn’t going to be on the identical stage it’s in a normal election or a presidential election in November. So that can assist us slightly bit.”

Sen. Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville, sponsored a invoice this yr to require that digital vote-counting methods are incapable of connecting to the Web or cellphone networks, and to require that they not have modem expertise. It didn’t cross.

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