Software error forces recount in close race for district judge
Thursday, November 10, 2005
BY MATT MILLER The Patriot-News
CARLISLE - A computer programming error is prompting an emergency vote recount today that officials say could change the result of the close race for Carlisle district judge.
Initial unofficial returns showed Republican Kathy Keating defeating Democrat Jessica Becker Rhoades for the six-year seat by 1,650 votes to 1,468.
But the error, found as votes were being counted Tuesday night, may skew that result, Cumberland County Commissioner Gary Eichelberger said last night.
"We don't know at this point what the outcome of this election is going to be," he said. "I won't mince words: [The recount] could reverse it."
Keating and Rhoades both were listed as Democrats in the software coding the electronic scanners used to count votes from the paper ballots, county officials said.
That resulted in incorrect crediting of ballots on which a straight party ticket was voted, they said.
The mistake was made by ES&S of Omaha, Neb., the county's vendor for election services and software, Cumberland officials said.
Eichelberger said a court order has been secured to start the recount at 9 a.m. tomorrow at election headquarters in the county's old prison.
Votes from Carlisle's nine precincts will be recounted by using the scanners, and a separate hand count will be done, he said.
The process likely will take all day and the candidates or their representatives will be able to watch, according to Eichelberger.
Election officials said the correct party affiliations were listed for Keating and Rhoades on the ballots used by voters.
They said the programming error did not affect any other county races.
Keating and Rhoades, who had vigorously campaigned for the $74,500-a-year job, both admitted that they were stunned when election officials told them of the recount late yesterday afternoon.
"We'll find out tomorrow what the voters of Carlisle wanted," said Keating, a lawyer and accountant.
Rhoades, a county senior assistant public defender, got her call as she was preparing for her wedding, scheduled for Saturday.
She said she had resigned herself to defeat in the race.
"I'm absolutely shocked," Rhoades said. "I had dealt with the fact that I'd lost. ... This makes life more interesting."