Hamilton County Election Board OKs examination of voting machine after reported issue with 2 straight-ticket ballots 

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The Hamilton County Election Board voted 3-0 to conduct an examination of voting machines used during early voting at the Hamilton County Judicial Center in Noblesville after two voters reported the same problem while attempting to cast a straight-ticket ballot.

At the board’s Nov. 8 meeting, Noblesville residents Cynthia Gast and her daughter, Kristina Gast, told the board that they pushed the button to vote straight-ticket for the Democratic party, but as they reviewed their selections before finalizing them they noticed no candidate was selected in the race for the Fifth District Congressional seat between Democrat Jeannine Lee Lake and incumbent Republican Victoria Spartz.

Both women, who voted Nov. 2 on different machines, individually selected Lake before casting their ballots, but they are concerned other straight-ticket voters may have experienced the same issue without noticing it, thus inadvertently not voting in the race.

“If (the race) happens to be really close, it’s scary,” Cynthia Gast said.

Greg Purvis, the lone Democrat on the three-member board, moved to initiate the examination to be held in conjunction with the county’s voting machine technicians, voting machine supplier MicroVote and Ball State’s Voting System Technical Oversight Program, which tests election equipment used in Indiana.

“With two people on different machines, to me that makes it more likely – although still somewhat remote – that it was a machine error,” Purvis said. “A machine error shouldn’t happen.”

Purvis said another possibility could be that both voters inadvertently deselected Lake’s name while attempting to scroll through their ballot, as it was located on the screen near the scroll button. He said a poll worker he contacted about the matter wasn’t able to recreate the issue.

Election board chair Ray Adler, a Republican, said the county previously has not received many complaints about voting machine issues and that reported problems can be difficult to recreate or verify.

“Sometimes there’s a lot of information but not a lot of evidence,” Adler said.

No matter the cause of the problem, Purvis said it’s worth investigating.

“At the very least this is disturbing, because it affects voter confidence in the outcome of the election,” he said.

Lake brought the matter to the attention of the board. She said she did not previously know Cynthia or Kristina Gast and that she did not pursue filing the complaint until speaking with both voters and a mutual acquaintance who connected them to verify their accounts.

After the meeting, Lake said she is pleased that the board voted to investigate the matter, but the issue will be in her mind as she watches election results come in.

“It makes me feel sad, because I have always believed in the (voting) system and have always believed in democracy,” Lake said. “If that’s been tainted, either purposefully or unintentionally, it sounds to me there’s a problem here.”

A date for the examination of the machines has not been set, although the board confirmed it will not happen until after Election Day.

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