Nineteen of the machines were purchased to be used in the February 25, General Elections—the first time that such equipment will be used in the BVI.
The exercise was held at the Central Administration Complex, and saw a number of voters participating, so as to become more familiar with the machines.
BVI Platinum News was able to observe the machines in use as voters tested the new equipment, and based on the response, they seemed to be very pleased with the speed of the voting process and machines’ ability to detect errors on their ballots.
“Easy like Sunday morning,” one man commented as he inserted his ballot successfully into the E-Tabulator.
There has been much concern that the older folks may experience difficulties using the machines, however, after testing the equipment, majority of them expressed confidence in the machines.
“It wasn’t nothing hard,” an older woman commented.
She disclosed that she did not wear her glasses and as a result, she did not follow the instructions on the ballot and select enough candidates. The machine, she said, was able to detect this and gave her the option to correct her error.
Younger voters also had positive reviews for the new machines.
(Photo Credit: BVI Platinum News)
Ms. Angelle Cameron in her assessment said, “Voting now with the electronic machines, I think that this process is a simpler process. I was designated to do a spoiled ballot so that we could see what the process is. I spoiled my ballot intentionally and we were able to see the machine give me two options, which I think is great. So, then the user knows, hey, something went wrong. Do you want to vote again or do you want to keep your ballot the way it is.”
Giving her take on the concerns by some persons about the security of the machines, she said, “I think we need to embrace what is a better process for doing things. Concerns about the machines being secure and safe are really because it’s new. Anything that is new, people have a lot of concerns.”
Security Concerns Addressed
Chairman of the Virgin Islands Party (VIP), Hon. Andrew Fahie was among some politicians who had expressed concerns about the results tabulated by the machines, as well as security.
BVI Platinum News sought out the Director of Business Development of Elections System and Software—the company that supplied the machines—Mr. Willie Wesley, who was present during the exercise to assist with the familiarization process—to have these concerns addressed.
Explaining the process, he shared, “Once the ballot is inserted in the machine, the machine actually scans the ballot. It takes an image of the ballot—top and bottom, front and back—it then counts the votes that are recorded on that ballot. It stores it on a thumb drive on the machine so you have the image as well as the result.”
After this step, the ballot is then dropped into a metal ballot box at the bottom of the machine, which is secured by lock and key.
“There is also a seal on the door. No one is going to be allowed to open up that to look at those ballots, but the good news is at the end of the election, not only do you have those results electronically, but you also have your paper ballots,” he stated.
There were concerns about the ability to have a recount should one be required, and Mr. Wesley assured that this would be possible in multiple ways.
“If you need to do any sort of audit or recount, you could take the ballots out and count them by hand or you could count them on the machine again. There are several ways,” he stated.
The Director boasted that the machine is one of the most popular of its kind in the United States of America (USA), and when asked if there have been any discrepancies in the results generated by the machines in the past, he responded, “None that I am aware of…I am not aware of any major discrepancies that they have had with the machines at all. It’s very accurate.”
Government paid $309,318.63 for nineteen units of the machines, and when asked whether or not voters can rest assured that the machines will perform seamlessly on election day, Mr. Wesley said, “Based on our track record, we have very, very, very few problems. But I can tell you this, we are prepared if we do have problems.”
He pointed to a small auxiliary compartment on the E-Tabulator that is positioned just above the ballot box compartment.
“If something happens to one of these machines on elections day, voting continues because they are going to be voting on paper and we have this emergency bin which will allow voters to insert their ballots in there where they are kept safe and secure until the machine can be repaired or replaced,” he assured.