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Malfunctioning Voting Machines in Mississippi Spark Concerns

A man votes on a touchscreen voting machine.

A man votes on a touchscreen voting machine. Lisa F. Young/Shutterstock

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Connecting state and local government leaders

STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Hurricane Dorian heads for Florida … New York police union issues vote of no confidence in mayor and police chief … North Carolina raises state worker salaries.

In Mississippi, a runoff in the Republican primary race for governor has raised concerns about voting technology. This week, a video went viral showing a man attempting numerous times to cast a vote for candidate Bill Waller while the machine instead registered his vote for opponent Tate Reeves. The man who filmed the video, Ethan Peterson, warned people on Twitter about the machines. “My intent is not to feed the conspiracy monster...Make sure your vote is correct before you hit go, because if I wasn't paying attention, I would have voted for the guy I didn't want to,” he said. County officials said that the machine had been calibrated before the election, and was taken out of service after they noticed the problem. It was one of two instances of malfunctioning touch screens during the primary election, according to Mississippi’s secretary of state. The issue has sparked fears of election interference both in Mississippi and beyond. Many states have invested in new voting equipment since the 2016 election, but experts have warned that untested machines could be more vulnerable to tampering. A recent report showed that only 24 states have taken recommended precautions for 2020, including a paper trail for electronic machines and required audits. Katina Granger, a spokesperson for Election Systems and Software, which provides voting equipment to states, said that they are working to address issues like the ones seen in Mississippi. “There are various reasons a machine might have calibration issues. We'll continue working with the jurisdictions to identify the root cause of any issues and service the equipment,” she said. Reeves eventually won the nomination for governor over Waller, and has not addressed the voting machine malfunctions. “I heard loud and clear what the voters said today. The conservative people in Mississippi have lined up behind me,” he said. But Eddie Perez, the global director of technology development for the Open Source Election Technology Institute, said that videos like the one posted this week might undermine Mississippi voters’ confidence in the results. “When voters’ obvious inputs don’t result in the accurate recording of their choices—either due to poor durability, or, in the mind of the electorate, perhaps more nefarious causes—then confidence in the democratic process is undermined," Perez said. [WLBT; NBC 15; NBC News]

HURRICANE DORIAN | Category 4 storm Hurricane Dorian is predicted to make landfall this weekend in Florida, bringing with it drenching rains and winds over 130 mph. According to the National Hurricane Center, the weather conditions are perfect for the storm to intensify over the next two days. "All of the intensity models forecast Dorian to begin strengthening again soon, and rapid intensification could occur. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months,” the hurricane center warned. The center’s director Ken Graham also cautioned that all Floridians should prepare for the storm. “Please don't think this is just coastal. This is over the whole state,” he said. Dorian is likely to become the most powerful storm to hit Florida's east coast in decades. Gov. Ron DeSantis warned residents to stock up on supplies in case power lines are downed. "It’s important for Floridians on the East Coast to monitor this storm closely. Every Florida resident should have seven days of supplies, including food, water and medicine, and should have a plan in case of disaster,” he said. [NPR; ABC News; USA TODAY]

NO CONFIDENCE | The Police Benevolent Association, the union representing New York City police officers, issued a vote of no confidence in Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner James O’Neill. The move comes a week after Daniel Pantaleo, the officer responsible for the death of Eric Garner, was fired from the police force, a move strongly opposed by the police union. The union is now calling for O’Neill to resign, and for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to use emergency measures to remove de Blasio from office. “The unjust termination of P.O. Daniel Pantaleo was merely the final straw: both men have displayed an appalling pattern of malfeasance and nonfeasance that disqualifies them from continuing to serve in their current offices. Today’s votes are an unequivocal indictment of our failed leaders,” said PBA president Pat Lynch. O’Neill last week said he understood why police officers were frustrated. “I’ve been a cop a long time. And if I was still a cop, I’d probably be mad at me,” he said. Freddi Goldstein, a spokesperson for the mayor, was less forgiving of the union’s anger. “This is another attempt by the PBA to divide our city and we won’t stand for it. Under this mayor and Police Commissioner, our officers and the communities they serve are closer than ever and the city is the safest it’s ever been. That isn’t changing,” Goldstein said. [CBS 2; Politico; NBC News]

WORKER RAISES | A bill passed by the North Carolina legislature would give raises to thousands of state employees. The bill provides for a 2.5% raise for employees each year for the next two years. The bill is part of a piece-meal budget effort organized by Republican leaders in the legislature after Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, vetoed a two-year state budget in June. Cooper has not indicated whether he will sign the 2.5% raise bill. Senate leader Phil Berger, a Republican, said that he thinks the governor is more likely to sign the budget in pieces. "The approach is to pass into law those items for which there's already broad bipartisan agreement," Berger said. Sen. Kathy Harrington, a Republican, said it was not difficult to get bipartisan support for this bill. “Providing pay increases to hardworking state employees and law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line every time they go to work is something that Republicans and Democrats can both agree on as can be seen by the unanimous support these bills received,” she said. [Raleigh News & Observer; WLOS; WSOC; WBTV]

PEE BEFORE WE GO | A woman in New Hampshire will be allowed to keep her vanity license plate, which reads “PB4WEGO,” after the governor intervened in her fight with the state DMV. Wendy Auger was asked to relinquish the plate with the common parental plea because the state said phrases related to excretory acts aren’t allowed. Auger said she has had the plate for 15 years, though, and appreciates the humor in it. “Who has a mom or dad or parental figure who hasn’t said that to kids before leaving the house?” she asked. Gov. Chris Sununu called the state DMV to speak in Auger’s favor. “Upon this being brought to my attention, I reached out to the Division of Motor Vehicles and strongly urged them to allow Wendy to keep the license plate she has had for the last 15 years. I recently left a message on her phone to share the good news that her plate will not be recalled,” Sununu said. Auger said she is grateful to the governor for his help. “I’ve been a mom for over 20 years, and no one’s had a problem with me saying this before. Talking about peeing isn’t offensive. I’m glad to have represented the ‘pee-ers’ of the world, but I’m glad it’s over,” she said. [New Hampshire Union Leader; Concord Monitor]

Emma Coleman is the assistant editor for Route Fifty. 

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