Johnson County Election Office today announces that Election Systems & Software (ES&S) has resolved the issue that caused slower-than-normal reporting of county-wide election results. The issue, traced to the software responsible for reporting total results, has been resolved with a rewriting of the vote aggregation software code.
At the close of polls for the Johnson County primary on Aug. 7, election officials and ES&S employees noted the county-wide upload of tallied votes was not performing as expected, nor as tested prior to the election. While votes were tabulated accurately, and results tapes were printed at the poll sites, the results for Johnson County were not completely aggregated and uploaded until the next morning despite county officials and ES&S employees working through the night to speed up the process.
“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 reporting code is separate and distinct from the vote tabulation software, and it is separate and distinct from the new ExpressVote machine. The reporting code caused the slow reporting of results because it was unnecessarily and constantly refreshing statistical data used solely for internal display purposes. This continuous refreshing of data was solely responsible for the slow aggregation and reporting of votes. While the aggregation and reporting of the results were tested prior to the election, they were not tested in the exact scenario that Johnson County experienced; most specifically, the number of ballot positions exceeded the number in the test scenario.
“The refreshing was intended to provide near real-time aggregation, but the code was written to refresh too frequently, slowing the totaling of county-wide data to a crawl,” said Burt. “At no time was the integrity or the accuracy of the votes in question, but we understand the frustration and questions that arise when one part of the election process doesn’t work as promised.”
In the hours and days following the primary, ES&S discovered the cause of the slow results reporting and rewrote the code for optimal performance. ES&S is promptly submitting this backend reporting code, which is not part of the new ExpressVote machine, for federal certification to ensure its use for the November election. Extensive testing of the new software has already begun and will continue to be performed under an array of expected and unexpected scenarios, including testing and exhibition on-site in Johnson County, through certification and up to the general election in November. Testing of multiple scenarios is being performed concurrently to be as expedient and as thorough as possible.
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.
Election Commissioner Ronnie Metsker said the solution, or any contingency plan, would also be extensively tested at the Election Office in Olathe.
“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.”
The Election Office routinely evaluates its processes and makes adjustments as needed before the next election. As a result, some of the changes for the general election have already been implemented. The Election Office will deploy an additional 1,000 voting machines to the county’s 195 polling places and recruit 1,000 additional election workers to assist Johnson County voters. All election workers will receive more training before the November election, which will include additional instruction and hands-on practice with the new voting machines and related systems.
Metsker said, “We did not experience any issues with the integrity of the new voting machines nor the accuracy of the vote tabulation in August, but some voters had experiences that did not meet their expectations, nor ours. We used their feedback as a guide for the changes we’re making for the November election: more voting machines, more election workers, and more training.”
Johnson County deployed ES&S’ new suite of election equipment and software for the primary after a thorough analysis and vetting of equipment and vendors. ES&S is recognized as the leading elections systems provider in the U.S., serving nearly 2,000 jurisdictions nationwide. The Omaha, Neb.-based company has provided elections equipment and technology for more than 200,000 elections over the last 40 years. All ES&S equipment is certified by the federal EAC, tested by outside experts, and is continually updated to meet ever-changing needs and provides the highest levels of security. The ExpressVote, which was first introduced in 2014 and most recently updated in 2018, is proven and recognized as the most advanced elections equipment in the U.S.
“The slow reporting of results was a serious issue, and we are grateful that ES&S has taken full accountability for the problem,” said Metsker. “The vote was always secure, the voting machines themselves worked as planned, and we are pleased that more than 120,000 Johnson County residents took part in the democratic process. After extensive discussions with ES&S and other outside experts, we have confidence in the resolution for the slow reporting of results as well as confidence in every other aspect of the election process.”
“I want to thank the voters of Johnson County for their election day turnout and patience,” Metsker continued. “Additionally, I want to recognize all of the poll workers and Election Office employees for their professionalism and dedication in preparing for the election, and for their perseverance in resolving the reporting issue. We had the best boots on the ground for weeks leading up to and through the election, and we continue to diligently prepare for the general election.”
Mr. Burt said, “ES&S serves hundreds of jurisdictions across the nation. The Johnson County Election Office staff is among the finest in the country. We recognize the election night incident resulted in unwarranted criticism of Election Commissioner Ronnie Metsker and his team. ES&S extends its sincere apology for the slow results reporting to the Johnson County Election Commissioner and all of the election staff, to the Board of County Commissioners, and to Johnson County voters and taxpayers. We will continue to be on-site in Johnson County testing and preparing for the general election. We are honored to work alongside the dedicated professionals from the election office and to serve the people of Johnson County in what we know will be an excellent general election process.”
-Election Systems & Software has been dedicated to secure, accurate elections throughout North America for nearly 40 years. The ES&S team is committed to developing integrated voting solutions that improve the voting experience, are secure, accurate and flexible, meeting a variety of jurisdictions’ needs and voter preferences. Learn more about ES&S at essvote.com or follow us on Facebook and Twitter @essvote.