Over a Third of Boston Precincts Had Voting Machine Malfunctions in 2012 Elections

Are we ready for 2016?

Photo by Sarah Mongeau-Birkett/BU News Service on Flickr/Creative Commons

Photo by Sarah Mongeau-Birkett/BU News Service on Flickr/Creative Commons

Quite a bit has changed in Boston since 2012. We got a new mayor. The Patriots won a fourth Super Bowl. We have a “Godsmack Day” now, for better or worse. Hopefully, our voting booths have done some changing too.

City Hall documents obtained by MuckRock via public records request reveal that 37 percent of Boston precincts experienced technical difficulties during the 2012 election. Clerk’s logs show that at least 96 of 255 precincts reported all sorts of problems, from “ballot count screwed up” to “machine shut off completely.”

Many precincts reported ballot jams. “Machine kept jamming—Holly + Police officer [sic] would free it, and it would jam again. This threw us all off. Holly put in all the absentee ballots first. It kept us from getting the count,” reads one clerk’s log.

In one case, a repairman never showed up to fix the problem. “Called City Hall concerning this. A repairman was supposed to arrive to remedy this. No one came,” reads another clerk’s log. At another precinct, the safety seal on the ballot box fell off, leaving poll workers to “manually put ballots inside machine.”

Even worse, these technical difficulties might have led to discrepancies in precinct totals. “Some absentee ballots…were run through twice by inspectors due to jams,” one log read.

Aging equipment is likely to blame for the trouble. Writes MuckRock‘s Carly Sitrin:

According to a study put out by the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, in 2016, Massachusetts will be using voting equipment that was purchased more than 15 years ago. And with each machine running a cost of around $3,000 multiplied by two units per precinct, the cost for Boston alone would near $1.5 million to replace them all.

You can read MuckRock’s full report and City Hall documents here.