A week after initial statement, no new info from ES&S on causes of reporting failure in Johnson County election night

Jay Senter - August 16, 2018 11:59 am
Election Commissioner Ronnie Metsker presented the board of canvassers with Johnson County official totals on Tuesday. The county has not received word from its election machine system company on what led to the issues with reporting results following the close of polls primary night.

More than a week after a problem with the software used to generate vote totals from Johnson County’s new ExpressVote machines led to a massive delay in reporting primary election results, residents are no closer to understanding what, exactly, caused the problem.

Election Systems & Software, the Omaha, Neb., company the board of county commissioners voted to award a $10.5 million contract for the machines and software system in May, has not responded to multiple media requests sent since last weekend about the status of its investigation into the problems and its expected timeline for reporting back to the county.

Johnson County’s new ExpressVote system had major reporting problems last week.

The company issued a statement the day after the primary saying that the “delay in reporting results was due to slow processing of the election media on encrypted thumb drives,” and that the “ES&S development team is working around the clock, performing a forensic analysis, to identify the root cause of the slow results reporting. ES&S is committed to expeditiously providing a solution.”

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Last Thursday, Election Commissioner Ronnie Metsker expressed public support for ES&S, calling them an “incredible company” and saying he had full faith that they would find and correct the source of the problem.

“I think we need to allow time to make this right,” Metsker said.

On Saturday, a spokeswoman for the company told the Shawnee Mission Post that ES&S was “continuing to look into the issue of slow reporting,” but had no additional information to report. ES&S has not responded to two follow up requests for information on the status of the forensic analysis on the errors.

Though both the hardware and the software deployed in the field for Johnson County’s primary elections had been certified in July by the Secretary of State’s office, the specific combination of products had never been used in a live election situation anywhere in the country.

Brian McClendon, a former Google product developer and the Democratic candidate for Kansas Secretary of State, attended Monday’s board of canvassers meeting in Johnson County and spoke with county officials about the problem. He posted a video on Twitter following the recess of the canvass board and said ES&S should have known about the software problem before putting the product into the field.

“This clearly should have been found in testing, and we should do much more stress testing,” McClendon said. “Ronnie and the county should demand that we do the stress testing before the general election because the company should have found this and should have fixed it, and has to fix it in the next 30 to 60 days. Because there is no excuse for seeing anything like this come November.”

Metsker and County Chair Ed Eilert have stressed that the county will not make payments for the voting system until it has accepted full delivery of the product — and that it will not accept the product until the county is satisfied the system will work.

Johnson County Government Director of Public Affairs and Communications Jody Hanson on Thursday morning said the county had not received an update from ES&S, but that she believed the company was getting close to being able to provide more information.

Metsker issued a statement Thursday morning saying that the county and ES&S would coordinate communications on the findings of the analysis.

“Election Systems & Software is still in the process of evaluation. As soon as they have information from their assessment, we expect to send a coordinated news release with an update. The update is expected to present what happened, what is being done to correct the problem, and what testing is being done before the November election,” Metsker said. “The vendor has assumed full responsibility for the system’s slow reporting issues on Election Night and will be making the necessary corrections in a timely manner.”

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