FOX59 Exclusive: Scathing report finds Johnson County software vendor violated state election laws

JOHNSON COUNTY, Ind - A preliminary report investigating computer problems at voting centers across Johnson and other counties resulted from poor preparation and resulted in Indiana election laws being violated.

The report was prepared for the Indiana Secretary of State by Ball State’s Voting System Technical Oversight Program, or VSTOP. The 20-page report examines, in great detail, all the things that went wrong on election day, resulting in thousands of Johnson County voters waiting in line for hours on November 6.

The VSTOP report claims Johnson County’s election software vendor, ES&S inadequately anticipated server needs on election day, and did not have their systems properly set up to handle the high voter turnout seen around the county.

“The situation which occurred in Johnson is unacceptable for any Indiana electronic poll book vendor,” the report states. “The responsibility for what occurred rests on the shoulders of ES&S.”

The report states ES&S did not have their Web Application Firewall (WAF) systems configured adequately to handle the flood of voting activity. The report also points out the company did not save records of “load testing” done prior to election day.

“The premise that their pre-election load testing adequately predicted election day needs is difficult to accept,” the report said.

The VSTOP investigators also concluded that ES&S failed to report several system “anomalies” that occurred prior to election day, which violates Indiana election law. And, attempts to fix the lagging computer issues on election day also resulted in a violation of state code.

“ES&S offered Johnson County a work-around to allow voters to be checked in at the vote centers,” the report says. “However, this work-around resulted in electronic poll books not being able to communicate between vote centers in Johnson County. This solution was not in compliance with the Indiana Election Code.”

A spokesperson for ES&S said the company is just now getting its first look at the report.

“We will review the findings and will work with Indiana elections officials to move forward appropriately,” spokesperson Teresa Paulsen said in a statement. “We again apologize to voters and to elections officials in the counties in Indiana where a poll book issue during the first part of election day caused longer wait times than normal. While wait times were remedied on election day, we look forward to providing solutions to ensure voter confidence for future elections.”

In the report, ES&S told investigators they are working to reconfigure their firewall functionality, and exploring the possibility of using different technology. But there’s no established timeline for when the systems could be improved.

“There is no established timeline of an alternate solution at this time. If/when pursued, it would benefit all customers, not just Johnson County, but will likely not be in place for the 2019 municipal primary,” the company said.
Since the problems occurred on election day, several public officials, such as the mayors of Greenwood and Franklin, have called on the county to explore working with other election software vendors.

Johnson County officials say they are still digesting the report in an effort to decide how to proceed in the future. Newly-elected Johnson County Clerk, Trena McGlaughlin, says she is still reviewing the report. She says a closed-door meeting is planned for next week.

“With the Election Board and the Commissioners to discuss possible litigation,” McGlaughlin said.

Later meeting are also being arranged to go through the VSTOP report so the Election Board can make recommendations to the Commissioners.

Election Board member, Phil Barrow, says his level of frustration with ES&S is “extreme.”

“They didn’t give answers as to what they might be able to work out in the future, just kind of generalities, and still bothers us extremely,” Barrow said.

The Secretary of State’s Office is still working on a final report on the matter, which could come in the next couple weeks, Barrow said.

While the 2019 municipal elections may seem far off, Barrow said the clock is ticking for decisions to be made, as some candidates are already beginning to file.

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