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ES&S Introduces Back-Up Plan for November Election

By Rick Dawson

(Indianapolis) - An embattled voting machine company at the heart of an I-Team 8 investigation was back before the state election board Thursday night. Election Systems and Software (ES&S) is up against the wall to make sure its touch screen voting machines are approved by the November election.

If the machines don’t get approved in time, there’s a backup plan that might have voters using machines they may have never used before.

ES&S was back before the election commission with the same goal as county clerks who count the votes.

“That is on November 2nd, they want to run an election and know that it's going to be secure, accurate and reliable,” said John Groh, ES&S.

But in the last primary, Johnson, Henry and Wayne Counties were forced to use untested, illegal touch screen machines, and testing on the newest version still isn't ready and can't be certified by the state.

“People like the equipment,” said Brian Burdick, Indiana election commission. “It's just gotta be legal.”

So, if the newest version isn't ready and approved by October first, ES&S has a backup plan.  It will instead provide hundreds of its M-100 optical scan machines and the support needed to use them in the fall.

It's similar to building two houses side by side, then deciding which one to move into a month before Election Day.

Some county clerks impacted by the deadline praise ES&S for being more proactive than in the past.
“I'm very, very happy. ES&S has come forward. They have given us an excellent plan in case we don't get certified,” said Marsha Abell, Vanderburgh county clerk.

Johnson county clerk Jill Jackson isn't waiting. She’s putting her backup plan in place now .

“That allows us several weeks in advance to prepare for our election,” said Jackson.

While Jackson says a once strained relationship with ES&S has gotten much better in recent weeks, the county will still re-evaluate its ties to the company after the fall election. 

“The proof's in the pudding. You've set an aggressive schedule for yourself. Most importantly, I appreciate knowing, I sleep better knowing that there's certified equipment housed in Indiana sufficient to handle all these counties in the form of the M-100 if there is a hiccup,” said Burdick.

The election commission has scheduled two different meetings in late September to hear from ES&S.

If the new version isn't certified by the last meeting on September 28th, those counties will be using optical scan machines. More than 400 of them are already in warehouses just in case they're needed to count the November vote.

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