Problems with Alaska’s new touchscreen voting machines slowed election returns Tuesday and caused elections officials to hand count and manually upload vote totals from several precincts across the state.
Election coordinator Lauri Wilson said several Diebold touchscreen machines in Southeast Alaska, the Interior and near Nome did not upload their votes into the Division of Elections’ central computing system. The machines’ modems either did not get a dial tone or had other problems, Wilson said.
The votes from touchscreen voting machines in four Kodiak precincts had to be manually uploaded because the electronic ballots were required to be presented in more than one language, Wilson said.
“We’ve got new technology. Particularly in rural Alaska, we’re going from the paper ballot to cutting-edge technology and the entire process is being slowed down,” said Division of Elections Director Whitney Brewster.
Alaska Democratic Party spokeswoman Kay Brown said the slowdown caused by the touchscreen machines is indicative of larger problems with the machines.
“I can say there are many systematic problems with Diebold machines that have been identified in many contexts,” Brown said. “That there were technical glitches with the machines is not surprising, and it’s one indication of the kinds of things that can go wrong with the machines and it’s something to be concerned about.”
Reading between lines, it’s easy to conclude that the technology was delivered without completely understanding downstream requirements. For example, in one precinct the machines could not be used because non-English translations were required but not included. This specific example is not a technology issue, per se. Regarding the modem dialing problems, how come it wasn’t tested in advance? I’m sure the machines worked fine in the lab, but didn’t anyone think what what might happen in a remote Alaskan village with poor dial tone quality? Yet another rollout planning issue.
Fundamentally, this is no different from any technology rollout where customer and administrative requirements are not planned properly, leading to unhappy users.