Texas officials say voting machines aren’t broken, they’re simply prone to ‘user error’

Voters in Texas have been showing up to the polls in droves since early voting began on October 22. In fact, the largest counties in the state have nearly doubled their turnout compared to this time in the 2014 midterms.

But many of those voters have complained about a significant problem: When they voters finish casting their ballot, it appears that the machine has flipped their votes.
Most of the complaints have been about the Hart eSlate voting machines, which are used in around 30 percent of counties statewide. The issue is particularly prevalent in the vote for the U.S. Senate race between Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX), since it is at the top of the ballot.
Officials insist that these voting machines are not rigged or malfunctioning; they’re simply probe to human error. What a … relief?

“The Hart eSlate machines are not malfunctioning, the problems being reported are a result of user error — usually voters hitting a button or using the selection wheel before the screen is finished rendering,” Sam Taylor, spokesman for the office of Secretary of State Rolando Pablos, told the Associated Press.
These particular voting machines have caused problems for voters in Texas before. In fact, in 2008, the Texas Democratic party sued then-Secretary of State Roger Williams over this same issue.
But those in charge of Texas elections are adamant that there is no malfeasance at play; voters just need to be extremely patient and careful when operating these machines.

“The ‘enter’ button on a Hart eSlate selects a voter’s choice. The selection wheel button on a Hart eSlate allows the voter to move up and down the ballot,” Keith Ingram, director of elections with the Texas Secretary of State’s office, said in an advisory.

“It is important when voting on a Hart eSlate machine for the voter to use one button or the other and not both simultaneously, and for the voter to not hit the ‘enter’ button or use the selection wheel button until a page is fully rendered.”

According to Tech Crunch, a 2017 paper  by two researchers at Rice University examined the usability of Hart’s eSlate devices. The paper says that in a 2008 study of 1500 voters, Hart eSlate machines ranked the lowest for usability of six commonly used electronic voting systems.

“There is evidence, both anecdotal and experimental, suggesting that the eSlate is not particularly usable,” the paper’s authors wrote.

“Counties are already spending a great deal of money on the eSlate and using the systems in elections despite potential usability issues that could lead to longer voter times… and mistakes made by voters while making selections on ballots.”

Source: thinkprogress