Election officials: Lafayette voting machines are not intentionally erasing votes for president

Voters go to election booths
Voting underway at Acadian Elementary in Lafayette in 2020. Photo by Travis Gauthier

The gist: A handful of social media posts has raised suspicions of vote tampering with reports of voting machines in Lafayette Parish appearing to erase votes. Election officials insist that’s not happening, chalking up the stray phenomenon, often reported second or third-hand, to routine errors and malfunctions. All complaints have been resolved and the votes cast as intended.

“Every single machine complaint has been checked out to see if it’s working,” by employees of the parish clerk of court’s office and the secretary of state, according to Lafayette Parish Clerk of Court Louis Perret. Machine issues have been rectified and votes counted as they should. 

The social media posts recount episodes where lights suddenly dim or disappear next to a presidential candidate’s name. Perret says all complaints that have come to his office have been checked and that voters were able to cast their vote for president as intended. 

“We’re expecting 1.2 million voters which is incredibly high turnout,” says Tyler Brey, a spokesman for the secretary of state’s office. He says they’ve heard similar anecdotal reports in one or two parishes in the state, including Lafayette and Caddo parishes, but nothing that rises to the level of concern. “There are bound to be issues. It’s nothing out of the ordinary,” he says.

One machine malfunctioned at Myrtle Elementary. Perret confirmed the account of Maghann Davy Judice, an admin for the Oaklawn Neighborhood Facebook page. Myrtle serves as the polling location for the mid-city neighborhood. Three different Myrtle voters had their votes re-submitted because of what turned out to be a faulty electronic panel, Perret confirms. Judice’s sister witnessed the first malfunction. All three voters ultimately cast their votes as they intended, Judice says, and she and the other Oaklawn admins who chased the issue down are satisfied the malfunction was the source of the problem. 

Irregularities more often come down to operator error. Perret suspects that’s at the root of a similar report circulating on social media about voting at Ernest Gallet Elementary in Youngsville. As at Myrtle, the voters re-cast their ballots as intended, and the machines were checked by a tech and working fine, Perret says. 

Operator error can come from voters or poll workers or both. Machines take a second to fully boot between voters. If a voter begins punching choices in too early in the reboot process, it may not register in the machine. Another possibility: If voters accidentally hit the wrong button, before a ballot is cast, they can reset the selection by hitting the wrong button again. That clears the lights on that item. Beyond that, Perret can only speculate, but he re-emphasizes that all complaints have been resolved. 

Whatever the problem, flag it ASAP. Errors happen in every election, as do malfunctions, Perret notes,  emphasizing that concerned voters should immediately notify poll workers before they hit the button to cast the ballot. Every voting station has a phone to call in techs to work on malfunctioning machines. 

Vote counts are checked to match the number of ballots cast with the number of registered voters who signed in to vote. Each machine stores that information. So long as the ballots and voters match up, they know that votes were cast appropriately. 

So far, there has not been an unusual number of election complaints. Perret estimates fielding between 75 and 100 complaints. But that figure includes machine irregularities and complaints from campaigns about electioneering violations. He says that complaint volume is typical of a presidential election, even given the anticipated record-breaking turnout. 

“We always want to do our elections in the open. I cannot do anything about complaints on Facebook,” Perret says, again emphasizing that voters call the clerk to report any issues they encounter. 

Double check your vote. The bottom line is that the vote counting process is still deeply human. Make sure your ballot is filled out correctly, and let a poll worker know if you suspect there’s a problem with the machine. 

Call the clerk of court with any voting issues: (337) 291-6400.

Are you having voting problems? Let me know: [email protected]