During an early poll in some Texas counties, a handful of voters indicated that their votes were changed for a simple ballot to aid the opposing party. Others reported that a problem with the voting machines seemed to remove a selection for the US Senate as a whole.
The Texas Department of State told TechCrunch that it had received "15-20 calls" from voters this week. All of these people made the mistake of correcting their ballots before handing them over, although this is not responsible for unreported cases where voters did not perceive the changed votes. In Texas, the Secretary of State serves as the chief election committee.
The issue is specific to Hart eSlates, electronic voting systems developed by major tuner maker Hart Intercivic. The Foreign Secretary's office claims that this problem is "not due to a malfunction of the machine" but rather due to user error. Across Texas, 82 counties use Hart eSlate machines, but only the districts of Harris, Travis, McLennan, Montgomery, Tarrant and Fort Bend reported problems. In 2008, the Texas Democratic Party sued then-Secretary of State Roger Williams – Ticket Electoral Failure, which concerns the same hard-eSlate machine.
The US 5th Circuit Court upheld the US Department of State's decision to use eSlate and cancel the case.
"I firmly believe that there is evidence that some votes in Texas have not been counted because of defective electronic voting machines, fairness of our elections," said Democratic Party leader Boyd Richie of the 2008 decision.  The current Secretary of State claims that safeguards exist to address concerns and encourage voters to review their choices
"The Hart eSlate machines are not malfunctioning, the reported issues are a result of user errors – usually voters, Press a button or use the Scroller before the screen plays, "said Sam Taylor, Texas Communications Director's Secretary of State.
Taylor added that the Office of the Secretary of State had given election officials instructions to address the problem with signage, raged election officials on these issues, and demanded that district officials "keep a careful log of all faulty machines and all machines that do not work,
The eSlate is an electronic direct dial (DRE) machine that uses a selection wheel and five buttons instead of a touchscreen.
In a paper from 2017, two Rice University researchers investigated the usability of Harts eSlate devices, which were touted for their ease of use by the manufacturer and the counties they have adopted. The study cites a 2008 study of 1,500 voters who rated the Hart eSlate rank as the lowest for the ease of use of six popular electronic voting systems.
"There is both anecdotal and experimental evidence that the eSlate is not particularly useful," wrote the authors of the paper. "Counties already spend a lot of money on the eSlate and use the systems in elections, despite possible usability issues that could lead to longer voter deadlines … and mistakes made by voters in voting."
In 2008, a whistleblower at Hart Intercivic filed a lawsuit (William R. Singer v. Hart InterCivic) accusing the company of "false claims … regarding the accuracy, testing, reliability and security of its electoral system, federal funds secure. " The lawsuit was dissolved following a Supreme Court ruling that prevented whistleblower cases.
Keith Ingram, director of Texas Foreign Ministry Election, made a full statement on the eSlate error:
"We've heard from a number of people voting on Harts eSlate machines that when they just chose ticket, It seemed to them that the machine had changed one or more of their selections to a candidate from another party, which may be caused by the voter executing keyboard actions before a page has completely appeared on the eSlate, thus making the candidate's pre-selection of this
"In particular, the Hart eSlate system uses a keyboard with a 'type in' and a selection wheel key. The "Enter" button on a hard eSlate selects a voter. The dial wheel button on a hard eSlate allows the voter to move up and down in the ballot. It is important when selecting on a hard eSlate device that the selector uses one or the other button and not both at the same time and the selector does not press the "Enter" button or press the dial button until one page is completely rendered. "
When TechCrunch asked for the Foreign Minister's plan to address the well-known Hart-eSlate issue by replacing the affected systems or a firmware update, the office asked us to talk to Hart Intercivic, the maker of the machine. "The eSlate simply captures the submissions of the voter; it can not and does not "turn around" or "switch," the company said in an email to the Dallas Morning News. Hart Intercivic did not respond to our request for comment.
"All machinery must be certified by the US Election Assistance Commission and then our office before being used in elections," said Taylor. "It's a very common misconception that our office has the ability to simply" update "the machines.
According to the Waco Tribune, McLennan County Electoral Administrator Kathy Van Wolfe said she received calls the same way during the last election that she has not had this year yet.