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Computer glitch delays Bucks election count County can't certify primary results until printouts corrected.
The Morning Call. 08 June 2005. By Hal Marcovitz

Bucks County government's much-maligned computer system is at the bottom of another election mix-up.

On Monday, the Bucks County Board of Elections was expected to issue a certified count for the May 17 primary, but couldn't because a computer printout contained numerous errors.

Elections Board Director Deena K. Dean said Tuesday that the printout prepared by the information services department included names and numbers in the wrong places. For example, she said, the returns for Perkasie Mayor J. Robert Hunsicker, who ran unopposed in the Republican primary, were listed in the printout under the results for the borough of Penndel in Lower Bucks.

Dean said an accurate printout is needed to certify the count because the document must be signed by the three county commissioners, who constitute the Elections Board.

County Commissioner James F. Cawley, the chairman of the Elections Board, said the mistake was caused by a programming error in the county's mainframe computer.

Cawley said the Elections Board and information services department were working to make corrections, and he expects the primary totals could be certified by noon today.

Although the computer glitch has delayed official completion of the count, the Elections Board still should meet a state-imposed deadline for the certification.

Ordinarily, the certified count is due 20 days after the election, which would have been Monday. But because of the war in Iraq, the state gave servicemen overseas until May 31 to return their absentee ballots. The state also gave counties more time to count those absentee ballots, so the deadline for the certified count is June 24.

Nevertheless, it isn't the first time that computer glitches have caused errors in Bucks County election returns.

In 2002 and 2003, the county's Web site was overwhelmed with hits on election night, causing the page to crash.

And in the spring 2004 primary, a keyboarding error gave U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter 85,000 extra votes in his re-election bid against then-U.S. Rep. Pat Toomey.

Officials discovered the error shortly after the bogus vote total was reported, but because of the antiquated program in use at the time, they were unable to correct it until after the final precinct reported several hours later.

Cawley said the county's computer mainframe dates to the 1970s, and the information services department has been moving data onto separate hard drives.

The county soon expects to replace its mechanical voting machines with electronic machines, which will record data on their own.

''One of the goals I'd like to see is moving the county computer system off the mainframe,'' Cawley said. ''It's antiquated technology, and we have to migrate off it.''

This spring's primary took longer to tabulate because of the abundance of write-in candidates, Dean said. She said 118 candidates received write-in votes.

One township where write-in candidates are anxiously awaiting the outcome is West Rockhill, where challenger Jay Keyser appears to have defeated incumbent Fred Diseroad in the GOP primary for supervisor.

According to unofficial votes released on election night, Keyser received 344 votes to Diseroad's 332. However, both candidates are believed to have received write-in ballots on the Democratic side.

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