Voting machine company says it’s rewritten faulty code that caused big delays — but can’t guarantee new software will be approved for use by November

Election Commissioner Ronnie Metsker with one of the ExpressVote consoles. Photo credit Johnson County.

Twenty days after company officials told Johnson County residents technicians were “working around the clock” to identify the issue, Election Systems & Software said this morning that it had rewritten a portion of the software code that led to a massive delay in reporting primary election results earlier this month.

But it’s not a guarantee that the updated software will be approved for use in November’s elections.

“The slow reporting of results was unacceptable, and we apologize,” said Tom Burt, president and CEO, ES&S. “We know the Election Office and other Johnson County Government leaders put their faith in us and we let down our valued partners. After exhaustive analysis to pinpoint the issue, we rewrote the portion of code that caused the issue, and initial tests of the optimized code were successful. We will continue testing, and we look forward to federal certification of the optimized software.”

The company and Johnson County issued a joint press release Monday morning with an update on the investigation into what caused the problem and how the company plans to address it. ES&S says it is performing “extensive testing” of the new software.

However, the company acknowledged it cannot be certain the updated software will be certified by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) in time for it to be used in the November election.

Consequently, the company said it is working on a contingency plan.

“As a contingency, in the event the new code is not government certified prior to the next election, ES&S is testing an alternate reporting process that would also provide accurate results in a more expedient manner than the primary election reporting,” reads the release.

The software program that was deployed for the August 7 primary election had been certified by the EAC on July 2. The specific combination of hardware and software put into the field by the Johnson County Election Office for the primaries had never been fielded for a live election anywhere in the country before.

Election Commissioner Ronnie Metsker said the election office would be working to ensure the equipment worked smoothly with the updated software in-house before the November elections.

“The testing being performed by ES&S and the federal Election Assistance Commission (EAC) is an important part of this process, but we want to ensure that the solution works on the actual equipment in our office,” Metsker said. “That’s the only way we can assure the voters and taxpayers of Johnson County that results will be reported in a timely manner in November.”

Johnson County’s Board of County Commissioners in May unanimously approved awarding a $10.5 million contract to ES&S for the new voting system despite a competing firm’s formal objection to the process leading up to Metsker’s recommendation of ES&S. Henry M. Adkins and Son, Inc., said at the time that because the purchase recommendation was made from a three year old request for proposals, the county was likely overspending and may not be considering the newest technology.

Metsker and County Chair Ed Eilert have stressed that they will not authorize payment to ES&S for the voting machines and associated support until the company has proven beyond doubt that the system works.

Former Johnson County Election Chair Brian Newby, who was implicated in mismanagement of election office resources and personnel management problems following his departure, now works for the federal Election Assistance Commission. Newby “oversees the day-to-day operations at EAC in all program areas, while managing a $9.6 million budget,” according to his EAC bio.