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From publicly testing voting equipment to a new self-audit: What Oneida County is doing so voters feel confident in midterm election results

Voting machine test
Erin Gottsacker
/
WXPR
Oneida County Clerk Tracy Hartman feeds sample ballots into a voting machine to test the equipment ahead of the midterm election.

Municipal clerks across Wisconsin are preparing for the midterm election. In Oneida County, election security is a priority.

The week before every election, community clerks across Wisconsin are required to publicly test electronic voting equipment.

“This is one of the tools that we have to try and help people see that our machines are good,” explains Oneida County Clerk Tracy Hartman. “They do what they’re supposed to do. They’re not flipping votes. They’re not stealing votes. They’re not miscounting votes. They’re doing their job.”

Hartman has created a deck of mock ballots to test the voting machine in the Town of Crescent.

“We take our ballots, and we create a fake election,” she says. “We vote a certain number of ballots.”

She runs those mock ballots through the machine, and then compares the machine’s tally with what she knows to be correct.

Sometimes the results don’t match. But if that’s the case, she says it’s normally human error.

“I’ve never had the machine miscount,” she says. “It’s always been I can track it back and see that in my hurry to get it done, I mismarked something or miscounted something.”

Hartman has confidence the machines accurately count votes on election day.

However, she knows people are worried, so she has created another way for people to check the machine’s results.

“What I have done in Oneida County is I have created a self-audit,” she says. “So if a voter is concerned that the machine was flipping votes, was not counting correctly, or was somehow doing something wrong, whether intentionally or unintentionally, they can now go to the county’s website, and if they scroll down under this year’s elections, they’ll see a do-it-yourself audit.”

The self-audit contains randomized pictures of all the ballots cast in nearly every municipality of Oneida County.

If a voter is concerned, they can download these images, and hand count the ballots to check the machine’s results.

Hartman encourages concerned voters to do this, but says if your results don’t match, be prepared to count again.

“This self-audit is one more check that we’re adding in Oneida County,” Hartman says. “So hopefully Oneida County residents feel like our elections are being done accurately, that they’re open, they’re fair and they’re honest.”

Erin Gottsacker joined WXPR in December 2020. As a Morning Edition host and reporter, Erin reports on the issues that matter most in the Northwoods.
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