MIAMI COUNTY — More than 6,000 early votes went uncounted in Miami County during the Nov. 6 general election.
According to Board of Elections Chairman Dave Fisher, the 6,288-vote discrepancy was found when the Secretary of State’s Office reviewed the election results. The office contacted the Board of Elections about the issue on Dec. 20, he said.
“This is terrible,” Fisher said. “I’m dumbfounded by how this happened and wasn’t caught until Dec. 20.”
The board will meet Tuesday to discuss and amend the official election results, an agenda item that was tabled at a special meeting held Jan. 17.
The uncounted votes were cast by early voters in the board of elections office using touchscreen voting machines.
“The saving grace to this is there were no races that changed,” Fisher said in a recording of a phone call between Board of Elections staff and the voting equipment vendor released to the media.
Fisher said that the missing votes did not affect the outcome of any races or issues and no recounts were triggered.
In the recording, a representative from the vendor, Dominion Voting Systems, suggested that the machines were not properly shut down. Fisher said that elections staff claim they shut down the machines the way they usually would.
“I’m not 100 percent sure why that wasn’t found in our report to the Secretary of State’s office on election night,” Fisher said in his conversation with the equipment vendor. “There’s all kinds of checks and balances in this system between all of us and the ball was dropped all the way around.”
Fisher said the board will conduct an investigation and has talked with legal representation and the county prosecutor. He added that he will suggest calling in a third party investigator “to bring in some fresh eyes to see where the ball was dropped” when the board meets on Tuesday.
“We need to know what happened,” he said.
On election night, Fisher said there were technical issues with some of the county’s voting machines that kept some data from transferring to the counting system, but he was assured that all of the votes had been accounted for.
“That statement I made was not true. I believed it was true, I was told it was true, but it was not true,” he said.
Fisher said he hopes the board will vote to purchase a new system on Tuesday, adding that this issue highlights the need for new equipment.
“If we can get something done as a board on Tuesday, we can have a new system in place for the primary,” he said. “We are right at the end of the deadline of being able to get any kind of new system in for the primary, so if there’s an impasse and we can’t come up with anything, then guess what? We’re going to have to fix this system for one more election.”
The agenda for Tuesday’s meeting also includes other items that were tabled after board member Ryan King protested the scheduling of last week’s meeting. He was unable to attend that meeting because he was out of town.
Board member Rob Long and Fisher agreed to table the agenda. Board member Audrey Gillespie argued that the board should take action on the election results in the interest of transparency.
The board has been divided over voting equipment for months. At a December meeting, the board was split on a motion by Fisher to buy a paper ballot voting system. Fisher and fellow Democratic board member Gillespie voted “yes” and Republicans King and Long voted “no.”
“I said it last meeting after we tied it up 2-2, we are within one election of having a meltdown. Little did I know, we were melting down right at that point,” Fisher said.
Reach Cecilia Fox at firstname.lastname@example.org.