MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The Montgomery Election Center worked to set the record straight about what did and did not happen in the days leading up to election day and after the polls closed in the recent municipal election. Election Director Daryl Parker released a lengthy statement Friday countering many of the concerns cited by Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill during a news conference on Thursday.
While Merrill believes the municipal election results are accurate, he doesn’t believe the office followed standard operating procedures for election equipment which further delayed the election returns.
Parker rejected Merrill’s statement that the election equipment wasn’t tested prior to the election citing two rounds of tests were conducted.
“Another thing that’s been introduced to us by ES&S, which is our election system provider, was that there was no testing done for the election equipment prior to the election day,” Merrill stated Thursday during a news conference.
WSFA 12 News reached out to ES&S to learn more about their findings.
“Montgomery [County’s] voting system performed well, and the votes were accurately tabulated and reported,” an ES&S spokesperson wrote in an email. “I understand that there were a few human procedural issues on election day, which is not unusual in any election. While ES&S was not present on election day or part of the testing, the county did test their precinct tabulators and conducted a public test of the same, as is required by law.”
Merrill maintains the required testing for the machines was not conducted.
Merrill’s office initially became involved in this race after lengthy delays in reporting the results in the House District 74 race. After arriving at the Montgomery Election Center, Merrill says his employees voiced concerns about what they observed that night, stating the office was not following protocol with regard to election equipment.
Parker fired back stating his office isn’t legally bound to turn over those returns to the secretary of state’s office until after the provisional ballots are canvassed.
“Our staff, of our own volitions, has gone out of our way to provide the secretary’s office with results in previous elections for his election night reporting,” Parker stated. “Montgomery County was the first county in the state to do so. Again, there was No legal or statutory obligation to do so, but It was done out of a spirit of transparency and cooperation.”
Merrill attributed the delays to poor training.
“People who were not properly trained obviously did not follow the protocol or the procedures in place for the use of the election equipment when it comes to plugging in the thumb drive, removing the thumb drive to receive the results to take them to the election center for reporting,” Merrill said Thursday.
Parker said every worker has a mandatory two-and-a-half hour training course, which is also available on the website.
Due to the concerns raised, Merrill announced Thursday his office will have 10 poll observers that will travel to every precinct during the Oct. 8 runoff election. This came at the mayor’s request.
Friday, Parker questioned the legality of adding poll observers to the election stating the law prohibits the arbitrary placement of monitors in any polling location.
Merrill confirms his office has the authority and has observed the polls in seven previous municipal elections during his time in office. The City of Montgomery is under contract with the Montgomery County Election Center to hold this municipal elections, which has been the standard since the early 2000s. The city is paying the election center around $400,000 for both the initial race and runoff election in October.