Yazoo County Circuit Clerk Robert Coleman said concerns that voting machines were tampered with in the recent city election to favor a candidate are unfounded because it isn’t possible.
“There is no way that those machines can be tampered with to make that happen – no way period,” Coleman said.
Coleman responded to questions from the Yazoo County Board of Supervisors Monday regarding the machines.
Some voters reported problems voting in the recent runoff election for mayor and Ward 4 alderman in the Democratic primary. One complaint was that the machines were selecting a different candidate than the voter intended.
Mayoral candidate Joseph Thomas Jr. provided The Yazoo Herald with three letters from voters who stated they experienced issues with the machines attempting to select a different candidate than they intended.
Reports of those kind of problems have led some to speculate that there may have been a conspiracy at work. Board President Cobie Collins said he has been asked many questions about the issue because the county allows the city to use the voting machines for elections. Collins said he does not want anyone to have the perception that the county tried to influence the city’s election in any way.
Coleman said like any computer, voting machines can have issues, but not the kind of issues that some have described that would affect the outcome of an election.
“They are machines, and it is possible for them to lose calibration during the process,” Coleman said. “But there is no way that the machines can be tampered with to favor any candidate – no way at all. That is totally inaccurate. I’m telling you this both from my professional knowledge and from my experience working with the machines.”
Coleman said that the machines allow voters to have a final look at their ballot before approval, and any mistakes may be corrected.
“You have a chance to correct any mistakes, and before you cast your ballot all of your choices are listed,” Coleman said.
Ward 3 Alderman Rev. Gregory Robertson, who is challenging the election, was present during the meeting and described an incident where a voter reported having difficulty getting the machine to accept his vote.
“I do know one person said they voted for me, but they couldn’t get it to cast the vote,” Robertson said. “He did it three times, so he called the poll worker, and the first time the poll worker tried to cast the vote, it didn’t work. She finally did get it to work.”
Coleman said that is an example of what was likely a calibration problem.
“These are man-made machines, and the calibration can get off, but that doesn’t mean that the machine starts selecting another candidate,” Coleman said. “It’s not that crazy.”
Robertson said he heard of other issues as well.
“One guy came and said he could not vote, and he did get a poll worker,” Robertson said. “The machine went down, but at the end of the day the machine that was down had more votes than the machines that were calculating all day. I’m not a computer tech. I’m just going by what was reported to me. When I voted, what should have taken me a minute took much longer because it kept giving me the wrong stuff, but like you said, at the end it gives a list of all the names.”
Coleman said the voting machines are tested before election day by a professional technician. He said the public, including candidates, may be present to observe that testing.
“We have reports to back up everything that is done,” Coleman said.
Collins said that the county uses the same voting machines for its elections, and if there was a potential problem, the board would want the facts.
“I just know for a fact that there is no way that these machines can be tampered with to favor a candidate,” Coleman said.