May 5—A software outage for the system used to check in Georgia voters across the state led to problems at early voting locations Thursday morning, according to the office of Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.
Servers for ElectioNet, which is used to sign in voters, rebooted automatically Wednesday night as part of routine IT maintenance, Raffensperger's office said. Two servers rebooting led to the system being offline early Thursday. State staffers began working around 6:30 a.m. to get the system back up and running, and the system was restored later in the morning.
Poll workers were forced to use slower, more manual methods to check in voters, such as accessing onsite, backup voter rolls, or using the Georgia MyVoterPage to pull up a voter's information, Raffensperger's office said.
The check-in process includes checking IDs, ensuring voters are registered, ensuring they have not already voted, and looking up the correct ballot combination. There are tens of thousands of different ballot combinations issued to voters, based on which district they live in for state legislative, county commission, school board, congressional and other elections.
Without ElectioNet, poll workers also had to manually punch in ballot combination numbers on voting machines for each voter, instead of encoding cards that are inserted into machines, Raffensperger's office said.
"We were using MVP, the MyVoterPage, to determine people's eligibility," Cobb Elections Director Janine Eveler told the MDJ Thursday. "And we kept going, but it's obviously going to take a whole lot longer. So I'm sure they told people, 'It will be a long time, you can leave and come back if you think you'd rather do that.'"
The statewide outage comes after Cobb County Elections had issues Monday with encoding the correct ballot combination on the election machine cards. The issue led to some voters receiving and casting incomplete ballots. Some ballots were incorrectly missing certain elections, including cityhood referendums. Eveler has said the issue was limited to Monday.
The issue was identified when some voters noticed a cityhood question was missing from their ballot, even though they lived in the boundaries of one of the proposed cities. People who noticed the issue before casting their ballot were able to get a corrected ballot, Eveler said. But for those who had already cast their ballot, it was too late.
Pro- and anti-cityhood groups in Cobb sent out emails urging voters to check if they live in a proposed city's boundaries before voting, and double-check their ballot to ensure it was complete.
Vanessa Parker, a Democratic candidate for state Senate District 37, said her husband was among the voters who received an incorrect ballot Monday. Parker's husband, James Ryner, is himself a state House candidate for District 36.
Ryner's ballot did not include the District 37 state Senate District, while Parker's did include it, she said, despite the couple living in the same household.
Ryner was able to cast a provisional ballot Monday morning, Parker said, but the process took some 90 minutes, causing Ryner to be late to work.
Parker was concerned about those voters who don't know what districts they are in, and may unwittingly cast ballots that don't include races they're eligible to weigh in on.
"Everybody don't know what Senate district and what House district they are in. ... I can't tell everybody that is voting," Parker said. "I'm telling my neighbors, 'Can you please make sure I'm on your ballot.'"
Added Parker, "I can't even say if I'm getting a proper amount of votes, because I don't know if the people in my district are supposed to be there."
Another voter, Lindsey Horton, said she received an incorrect ballot on Wednesday, even though the issue was said to have been resolved Monday. Horton, who lives within the proposed city of Lost Mountain, said she and her husband voted Wednesday morning, but the cityhood question didn't appear on their ballots. The missing cityhood question "didn't register" with Horton until about 30 minutes after she voted, when she realized the mistake.
"I'm pretty frustrated because I feel pretty passionate about it (cityhood). And even though it's on a micro level, this is still disenfranchisement. So that's not really acceptable," Horton said.
Eveler said she had not seen any evidence that the encoding issue from Monday had occurred on subsequent days of early voting, but that it's possible a poll worker assigned the wrong ballot combination to Horton.
"So the two possibilities of that is that the poll worker selected the wrong ... ballot combination on their poll pad, and gave them the wrong ballot," Eveler said. "Or that the voter — and this does happen — misremembered that they actually did have it on their ballot, but they didn't notice it, or it's not a clear enough language ... Those are the two possibilities, because the poll pads, we've determined they were fixed after the first day. And so it's not a mechanical issue, it's either a human issue on the poll worker's part, or it's a human issue on the voter's part."
The Cobb County Republican Party issued a statement late Thursday condemning the issues that have plagued the first week of early voting.
"We are calling for immediate support from the state and county officials — this chaos cannot continue," the statement reads. "The Cobb County Republican Party takes election integrity seriously, and we are committed to the proposition that every eligible voter should be permitted to vote, every legal vote should be counted accurately, and every ballot issued should be prepared correctly — if we can get lottery tickets right, we should be able to process ballots."
The Cobb GOP has notified its "election integrity legal team" and the state Republican Party of the issues, and in its statement called for election audits and the use of hand-marked paper ballots.
"The Cobb Board of Elections has suggested an election challenge (after the election) as a possible remedy, but we believe that the office of the Secretary of State and the Cobb Board of Elections exist to prevent these matters from having to appeal to the courts for every minor problem — but the minor problems may be indicative of a systemic failure," the statement says.
State Rep. David Wilkerson, D-Powder Springs, was told by a voter that the state check-in system outage caused delays at the South Cobb Regional Library. Wilkerson himself is waiting until later in the election to vote, so that officials have time to work out the kinks.
"Luckily I don't have a primary, but I could not imagine being on the ballot," Wilkerson said. "And it's bad for folks, but it's also bad for the people that have put all this time in and effort, and telling people they're the best candidate, and realizing that people don't see them on the ballot ... It just throws everything into chaos right now."