About 10 percent of Cuyahoga County’s voting machines checked so far have failed a pre-election test, once again challenging public confidence in the election system.

With just weeks until the May 4 primary election, the system’s manufacturer, Election Systems & Software Inc., has been unable to find what is causing the machines to arbitrarily power down and lock up during a test.

The problem showed up about 10 days ago when the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections began a series of routine tests on the voting machines. The machines froze during a specific test done to ensure the optical scanners were reading paper ballots correctly. At different points in that test, the machines simply started powering down, then freezing.

The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections has 1,200 voting machines. Of the 279 that have been tested, 28 have had this problem.

But it is hard to tell how pervasive the problem is. Board members were told at their meeting Tuesday that some machines that first passed the test, later failed when the procedure was repeated.

Employees stopped the test after 19 of the 279 machines had problems. Those 19 were put aside, and the staff started the tests on the others all over again. By the time they had retested 200 machines, nine of those that initially passed had failed the second time around.

With optical-scan machines, voters fill in ovals next to candidates’ names on a printed paper ballot. The votes are tallied when the ballot is fed into the machine at the polling location.

“A 10 percent failure rates is high,” said board member Inajo Davis Chappell. “We’ve never had this rate of failure. We don’t want the public to have a lack of confidence.”

The problem “is completely unacceptable,” board Chairman Jeff Hastings told an ES&S representative. “I hope the secretary of state knows about this.”

Kyle Weber, ES&S’s project manager for Cuyahoga County, said Tuesday that officials were working hard on trying to find the problem and determine how to fix it before the election.

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Article courtesy cleveland.com

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