For hundreds of Nevada voters and some candidates, June’s primary election did not go as planned.
Officials said at the time that a spate of well-publicized voting machine problems — including glitches that left some candidates’ names off ballots or displayed the wrong slate of ballot choices — only affected a handful of voters.
But a Reno Gazette Journal review of public records found there were more than 300 reported machine malfunctions across the state. More than 100 were recorded in Washoe County alone.
The software hiccups contributed to a double-voting snafu that forced officials to call a rare special election in July for the office of Clark County public administrator in Las Vegas.
Now, a little more than two months ahead of the Nov. 6 general election, officials told the newspaper they don’t know how many improperly displayed ballots might have gone unnoticed by voters and unreported to poll workers during the primary.
Reports obtained by the Gazette Journal show voters in 11 of Nevada’s 17 counties reported voting machine malfunctions that omitted candidates or presented poll-goers with the wrong slate of ballot choices.
Voters also complained to poll workers about ballots already filled out at the voting booth and problems with “smart cards” needed to access upgraded voting tablets.
Several attorneys interviewed by the Gazette Journal agreed that such unidentified irregularities could have affected primary election results, especially in smaller races decided by a few dozen or a few hundred votes.
“There were various candidates’ names not on the ballot. That’s a huge problem,” said David O’Mara, a Reno-based elections attorney. “It’s also a colossal failure that people were improperly given the wrong voting cards and then allowed to vote twice. In essence, the failure to follow the proper procedures disenfranchised numerous voters.”
O’Mara said he believed Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske and her staff are working hard on the issue before November.
County officials, hewing closely to talking points provided by voting machine manufacturer Dominion Voting Systems, referred to reported Election Day issues as “isolated incidents” that did not affect final vote counts.
They blamed human error for many glitches, but post-election reports showed well over 100 hardware malfunctions statewide, ranging from printer jams and frozen screens to power failures.
Voters and poll workers in 10 counties, including Washoe and Clark, reported mechanical problems while inserting, removing and using the smart cards needed to load candidate choices and cast ballots.
More than three dozen voters in the two counties caught machines presenting them with incorrect, incomplete or otherwise pre-marked ballots.
Washoe County in June said it was aware of fewer than 10 voters affected by the problems.
Reports obtained by the Gazette Journal show the number of known malfunctions was closer to 113.
Yet county officials appear unlikely to abandon Dominion, the Canadian company that makes Nevada’s voting machines.
Officials in Clark and Washoe counties, the state’s two largest population centers, have said they plan to work closely with Dominion to resolve technical issues before November’s general election.
According to its website, the company has clients in five U.S. states, as well as in Canada, Mongolia and the Philippines.
Nevada first purchased machines from one of the company’s predecessors in 1991, and counties spent a combined $25 million to buy Dominion’s latest voting machines last year. State officials said it would be expensive to change vendors.
Kay Stimson, Dominion vice president of government affairs, said in an email that unreported issues in the primary election were minimal and her company was confident there would be no repeat of the same issues in November.
The Secretary of State’s office reported the company has completed an update that will be tested next month.
A report released Aug. 21 by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission shows Nevada is spending nearly $4.3 million in federal grants to shore up its election systems.
Washoe County Registrar of Voters Deanna Spikula said she has confidence in Dominion voting machines, though her office plans to implement several changes to avoid future voting booth failures.
Clark County officials last month told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that software hiccups contributed to as many as 43 cases of double-voting in the county’s razor-thin race for county administrator.
That race was initially decided by just four votes, leaving officials with no choice but to call a special election to fairly decide a winner.