Wisconsin recount observers cite broken warranty seals

- Election workers in Wisconsin spent the weekend continuing a recount of ballots cast in the Presidential race.

President-Elect Donald Trump narrowly carried the state on Election Day. After the election, Green Party Candidate Dr. Jill Stein filed a petition and raised enough money to pay for a recount, charging voting irregularities.

The process in St. Croix County has drawn scrutiny from observers for Stein. They’ve posted videos and photos online showing warranty seals on some machines were worn.

“I put it out on social media just so someone could know,” said Melissa Thomas, who posted a video of the machines on Facebook. “I filed [a complaint] with the Wisconsin Elections Commission about the issue.”

A commission spokesperson told Fox 9 officials are looking into the issue and that "the technician will be submitting an affidavit attesting to the mistake he made."

“The seals were broken by the technician who came to install the modem in each machine after purchase,” wrote Reid Magney, public information officer for the Wisconsin Elections Commission.  “The technician was supposed to replace the seals when he was finished, but neglected to do so.”

The label reads “removal of seal voids warranty.” It is unclear what impact, if any, the tearing of the seal would have on tabulating votes.

St. Croix County Clerk Cindy Campbell said she would not comment on the concerns, referring questions to the county’s Corporation Counsel.

She did comment on the process overall, saying workers have not problems with the machines as far as counting ballots. Workers are counting ballots by machine and by hand.

“They're doing what they're supposed to do, with reconciling numbers and absentee certificates and ballots, and poll lists,” Campbell said, referring to elections workers.

Campbell said the Canvassing Board has completed the recount in close to 30 of the county’s 42 reporting units. Clerks across the state face a deadline of Dec. 12 to complete the recount.

Statement from Wisconsin Elections Commission

Questions have been raised by some recount observers in St. Croix County about the security of voting equipment.  The Wisconsin Elections Commission has been in contact with the St. Croix County Clerk and the equipment manufacturer, Elections Systems & Software (ES&S), and is confident that this is not an issue that would have affected the accuracy of the results reported by the equipment.

St. Croix County municipalities use DS200 scanners from ES&S.  After the equipment was purchased, ES&S sent out a technician to install modems in the scanners, which are used on Election Night to transmit unofficial results to the county.  In order install a modem, the technician was required to break a “warranty seal” on a door on the scanner. Unfortunately, the technician apparently did not replace those seals on the doors after completing his work.

According to Gary Jacobsen, Regional Field Service Manager for ES&S:  “These are warranty seals used by technicians and should not be confused with “security seals” that the County would have used on Election Day. To gain access to the inner workings of the scanner, the technician uses a T-10 Torx screwdriver that has a security tip that is needed because of the special screws that are used.” 

ES&S will produce an affidavit from the technician attesting to the fact that he was the person who broke the seals and why he did so.  The Commission has asked the St. Croix County Clerk to provide a copy of that document after it has been completed. Also, the equipment will be tested following the recount.

The County Clerk reports that observers from the Stein campaign have been verifying the equipment’s accuracy for selected reporting units by observing the ballots after they are tabulated by the equipment with the broken warranty seals. They have the scanners set up on tables (without the ballot bin) so that every ballot processed by the machine slides out on the table for observers to see and count without handling the ballots.  They are not doing this for every reporting unit recounted on each of the machines in question, but have verified several and all of the hand count tallies match the results tape generated by the scanner.

Based on the evidence provided by the St. Croix County Clerk’s office and ES&S, the Commission staff is confident that the voting equipment is accurately tabulating and reporting the results in St. Croix County.

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