Voting machine

Racine County election officials feed ballots into a voting machine in December as part of the statewide recount of the 2016 election results. The state Elections Commission on Tuesday voted to end use of a specific type of vote-counting machine, the Optech Eagle, after the 2018 election.

GREGORY SHAVER, RACINE JOURNAL TIMES

State elections officials plan to end the use of a type of ballot-tabulation machine after the statewide 2016 recount linked the machine to vote-counting discrepancies in the last election.

State elections commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to de-certify the machine, the Optech Eagle, immediately after the 2018 election.

The commission also required that if those machines are used in a recount before then, a hand recount would be required.

A Wisconsin State Journal analysis of the recount results, published in January, highlighted the problems. The Optech Eagle, which processed about 10.6 percent of the ballots in the state, produced a higher error rate than other machines — likely because some voters didn’t comply with instructions to use a certain kind of ink or pencil to mark their ballots.

State elections supervisor Richard Rydecki said the machines have been in use in Wisconsin for more than two decades and have been heralded for their speed and durability.

But the machines have one big flaw: They can only read carbon-based ballot markings, such as those made by a pencil. Markings made by ballpoint pens or markers can be missed.

Because of its age, user support for the machine already is being phased out, Rydecki said. Some municipalities that use the machine already have plans to replace it.

The recount, the first conducted statewide in Wisconsin of a presidential election, found no major problems with the state’s voting system. It found a relatively tiny shift in the presidential election results: Republican Donald Trump extended his lead over Democrat Hillary Clinton by 131 votes, and total votes increased by about 400 out of nearly 3 million cast.

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Mark Sommerhauser covers state government and politics for the Wisconsin State Journal.