A large, boisterous crowd gathered Wednesday night in the library of the St. Croix Educational Complex to experiment and try out a direct recording electronic (DRE) voting machine in a public demonstration given by manufacturer MicroVote General Corp.
At 6 p.m., Adelbert Bryan, chairman of the Election Reform Committee, led a question-and-answer session with MicroVote President James M. Ries, where roughly 100 people grilled him for 90 minutes about the various problems with electronic voting.
Several people, including former gubernatorial candidate Kenneth E. Mapp, questioned Ries about the machine’s ability to ensure that a voter’s vote is tabulated correctly, and many wanted to know specifically, in the case of a possible recount, how the machine was better than the previously used Danaher Electronic 1242 electronic voting machine.
Ries tried to assure the crowd that MicroVote machine, known as the Infinity, is superior to alternatives and explained that the U.S. Election Assistance Commission has certified MicroVote. He added that during a power outage, as often happens in the territory, there is a four-hour back up battery that will allow the system to keep running.
The biggest concern that the crowd expressed was whether the Infinity had the ability to include a voter-verified paper audit trail, a feature the Danaher does not include.
Ries informed the passionate crowd that MicroVote’s machines have the technology to add a paper audit trail but explained that it wasn’t a question of ability, but rather a legislative issue that needed to be addressed.
“The system is capable of that, but the Election Board would have to agree upon it,” Ries said.
Bryan, who was the only member of the Election Reform Committee to attend the meeting, then explained that the only way to have voter’s concerns addressed is for the Senate to introduce legislation for the governor’s approval.
“Members of the board must approve the changes—unless you submit them to a senator and they pass the recommended changes, the current system won’t get changed,” he said. “If we in the V.I. want some paper trail coming out of the machine with a separate box to hold the results – unless our law says so – we will not get it!” Bryan said.
Ries told the crowd that his job is simply to ensure the machine’s capability to do what is requested; however, he must abide by standards and let the Election Reform Committee take action.
“I can see that you are all very passionate about the integrity of your vote, and I’m glad I’m not a politician. And I commend you, but we cannot change [the machine without approval],” he said.
At 7:30, with several eager hands still in the air to have their questions asked, Bryan wrapped up the discussion so that Ries could demonstration the Infinity.
Bill Whitehead, a customer service rep for MicroVote, was surprised at how large the crowd was and explained that with so many people, the discussion tends to get off track—it goes from learning about a voting machine to discussing legislation.
“We never see a crowd like this. Usually we do a demonstration for 5 or 10 people, decision makers. This is more like a town hall meeting,” he said.
The MicroVote team is planning on meeting in St. Thomas tomorrow to have the same discussion with the St. Thomas-St. John Board of Elections. Information on the meeting time and place, however, was unavailable at press time.