Home Science & Tech No, Software Glitches Are Not Affecting Vote Counts

No, Software Glitches Are Not Affecting Vote Counts

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President Trump and many of his supporters complained over the weekend that “software glitches” undermined the vote counts in Michigan and Georgia and argued that the problems portended wider issues in other counties and states that used the same software.

But issues in the unofficial vote counts in Michigan’s Antrim and Oakland counties were caused by human error, not software glitches, according to reviews by the Michigan Department of State, county clerks and election security experts. Officials concluded that they were isolated cases that did not signal wider issues with vote counts elsewhere.

And in Georgia, software issues only affected how poll workers checked in voters in two counties and delayed the reporting of results in another. The issues did not affect the counts.

“Anyone trying to falsely connect the situations in the two states is spreading misinformation in an effort to undermine the integrity of our elections system,” said Tracy Wimmer, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of State.

In Antrim County, Mich., a Republican stronghold, unofficial results initially showed President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. beating Mr. Trump by roughly 3,000 votes — a sharp reversal from Mr. Trump’s performance there in 2016.

Local officials caught and fixed the error. In the revised count, Mr. Trump beat Mr. Biden by roughly 2,500 votes. The problem, election security experts and state officials concluded, was that an election worker had configured ballot scanners and reporting systems with slightly different versions of the ballot, which meant some results did not line up with the right candidate when officials loaded them into the system.

In Oakland County, Mich., the result of one local race was changed after election officials spotted an error in the unofficial counts. The first tally said an incumbent Republican county commissioner had lost his seat, but the corrected tallies showed he kept it. County election workers had mistakenly counted votes from the city of Rochester Hills, Mich., twice, according to the Michigan Department of State. The workers later spotted the error.

“As a Republican, I am disturbed that this is intentionally being mischaracterized to undermine the election process,” Tina Barton, the clerk in Rochester Hills, said in a video she posted online. “This was an isolated mistake that was quickly rectified.”

Michigan officials added that the errors came in the counties’ unofficial tallies and that they were fixed before another layer of checks that is designed to catch such mistakes. In that review, two Republican and two Democratic “canvassers” certify the vote counts in each county, checking poll books, ballot summaries and tabulator tapes.

Antrim County relied on widely used election-management software made by Dominion Voting Systems. That led conservative publications like Breitbart and The Federalist to falsely suggest that the mistakes were with Dominion and could mean wider issues elsewhere.

Yet three out of the other four counties that experienced issues in Michigan and Georgia did not use Dominion. Oakland County, Mich., used software from Hart interCivic. And in Georgia, only one of three counties that had problems, Gwinnett, tied the issues to Dominion, said Harri Hursti, an election security expert on the ground in Georgia.

The issues in Gwinnett County delayed the reporting of vote counts but did not affect the tallies. The other Georgia counties, Spalding and Morgan, had issues with the systems that check-in voters at the polls. Those so-called Poll Pads were made by a company called KnowInk.

“People are comparing apples to oranges in the name of Dominion,” Mr. Hursti said. “This was a glitch in the way that KnowInk Poll Pads interacted with ballot-marking devices, not with Dominion, period.”

Yet Twitter and Facebook posts from Mr. Trump and Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, suggested the issues in Michigan and Georgia illustrated much wider problems with the election. Since Friday, there were more than 3,700 Facebook posts that mentioned “election,” “software” and “glitch,” and they were collectively shared more than 250,000 times. Right-wing news sites echoed those complaints.

Two Republican senators from Georgia, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, citing what they said were “failures” in Georgia’s elections process, called on Brad Raffensperger, the state’s Republican secretary of state, to resign on Monday. Mr. Raffensperger later responded, “That is not going to happen.”

The Michigan Department of State said the fact that election workers caught the issues with the counts showed the system of checks worked.

“Municipal and county clerks are dedicated public servants who work hard and with integrity,” the department said in a statement. “Sometimes they make honest mistakes, and when they do there are many checks and balances in the election system to ensure they can be identified and corrected.”

Ben Decker contributed research.

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