Election officials hope new software for voting machines will provide swift results in Johnson County on Nov. 6, unlike the overnight vote count delay that plagued the county in August.
The updated software has received both federal and state certification, Johnson County Election Commissioner Ronnie Metsker said Thursday. The new software resolves the issue that caused painfully slow reporting of Johnson County’s results following the Aug. 7 primary election.
In fact, Metsker said, this new vote reporting software can deliver results very rapidly.
“We have exhaustively tested this,” he said. “It will be dazzlingly fast.”
Johnson County rolled out about 1,100 new machines for the primary election, when more than 120,000 residents voted, and the machines themselves generally worked well.
But after the last polling location closed shortly before 8 p.m., it took until 8 the next morning to get final unofficial results, including in the high-profile Republican gubernatorial primary that was being watched by a national audience. Those results revealed a razor-thin margin between Gov. Jeff Colyer and challenger Kris Kobach, who eventually won.
In late August, the voting machine vendor, Election Systems & Software, said that faulty software code was to blame and that they were rewriting that code to remedy the problem. That new software release has been certified by the federal Election Assistance Coalition and the Kansas Secretary of State’s office.
Of course, those same agencies had also certified the previous software back in July, and then it didn’t work as hoped.
Metsker said Thursday that ES&S officials have acknowledged that they didn’t fully stress test the system prior to August, using a test data load that would mimic the very long county ballot with 3,000 candidates in 2,000 races.
This new software, Metsker said, has been tested using the August vote data, and the results were available in less than 30 minutes. Even greater test loads revealed quick results.
“I was jumping up and down with glee,” Metsker said, noting that this was the type of system that ES&S had promised. He said he’s hopeful election results will be available before 10 p.m. on election night.
The general election could pose additional challenges, since Johnson County has tallied 415,000 registered voters, a record for the county. Metsker said turnout could approach what it was in the 2016 presidential election, when 298,000 people voted.
The county expects to have a total of 2,100 machines available at 195 polling locations on Nov. 6. The election office hopes to have 2,200 workers to help on Election Day. It is still trying to recruit about 350 more workers to reach that total by Oct. 24. Workers must be registered to vote in Johnson County and willing to work from 5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. They are trained ahead of time and paid $110 for election day and $50 for training. Applications are accepted through Oct. 24 at jocoportal.org/apply.
Advance voting begins Oct. 22 at any of six locations, with information at jocoelection.org/advance-voting.