Election Systems and Software employees run test decks through the DS200s. (Jocelyn Jackson/Rhode Island Current)
In a crowded Cranston warehouse, they waited their turn for a test. Not just any test, but a test that will literally determine the outcome of an election.
They are Rhode Island’s DS200s, the machines that started taking ballots from early voters for the primary races for the open seats for the 1st Congressional District and State Senate District 1 and Foster Town Council.
The machines were packed wall-to-wall while two testers for a vendor working for the Rhode Island Board of Elections conducted what the board’s special projects coordinator, Steve Taylor, called “logic and accuracy testing.”
The state has 610 DS200s. A total of 117 of DS200s will be used to record votes from each of the 94 polling locations in the 1st Congressional District, Taylor said. Why was it so important that the machines received a thorough inspection?
“To ensure that they have been programmed right from the vendor, make sure every vote is counted accurately on the ballot,” Taylor said.
A total of nine testers from Elections Systems and Software and board of elections staff conducted the testing over the course of four days which started last Thursday, Aug. 10. That’s about half the number of days it usually takes for a general election, Taylor said.
Testers follow a lengthy checklist. They must validate the serial number, confirm it was set up correctly and receive ballots filled out and inserted to test if the machine records the results properly. Testers check to see if the machine’s display panel reveals the total number of ballots fed into the machine.
Every candidate receives votes during the testing. Testers check to make sure candidates vote tallies match the number of test ballots that had votes for them. Testers also insert blank ballots to make sure the machine does not count them.
“For me as an election official, we have the running joke that there’s checklists for checklists, to make sure every step of the process is being completed,” Taylor said. “It’s a lot of moving parts.”
Correction: This story has been updated to show that only the 117 machines slated to be used in the Sept. 5 primary were tested, not all 610.
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