Localities scramble to get paper ballot voting machines in time for Election Day

Posted at 10:11 PM, Nov 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-06 23:32:04-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- With Election Day rapidly approaching, poll workers in roughly a dozen localities all over the Commonwealth, including bigger cities like Norfolk and small ones like Hopewell, frantically train on brand new voting machines.

On September 8, the Virginia Board of Elections voted to immediately de-certify all paper-less voting machines in the state.

Those were the machines that allowed voters to vote by touching the screen.

"We've had concerns in Virginia about the paper-less equipment for a while, and we've been kind of on a path to replacing them state-wide," Edgardo Cortes, the state Commissioner of Elections, said.

Cortes said a hackers conference in Las Vegas this summer prompted the de-certification after it showcased vulnerabilities in some of the machines still in use in the Commonwealth.

"What we found is there was a rush to produce a lot of this equipment so a lot of these security concerns some of these other things weren't really front and center in the development of that equipment," Cortes said.

Hopewell's General Registrar Pamela Clark said she promptly got rid of the old machines and ordered new ones.

"They are gone. I don't have room," Clark said.

Hopewell had to scramble to find the $105,000 to pay for them.

"We weren't budgeted for this, this time. They're having to find the money for that real quick, so it's really been interesting, but everything has come together," Clark said.

All voters will now fill out traditional paper ballots that will be scanned through the new machines and counted.

"You can't hack paper," a man training a group of Hopewell poll workers on the new machines said.

Clark said a return to paper ballots reminds her of when she took over the office more than 30 years ago.

"We started with paper, and it looks like we're going to end up with paper just a little bit different, then we counted by hand, so we're not up all-night counting paper," Clark said.

Hard copies of ballots that will allow election officials to validate the accuracy of their results, which is a return to the past that Clark said she hopes the state sticks with for a long time to come.

"The older you get you're sort of going ok these machines are going to see me out by the time I retire, but I'm going oh one more time here we go," Clark said.

Cortes said starting next year the state will begin auditing every election to ensure the accuracy of their results.

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