Human error, number of early voters lead to counting glitch (IA)
Hieu Pham Iowa City Press-Citizen 08 November 2007
A glitch in a computer program and the unanticipated numbers of early votes led to the glitch on the proposed 21-ordinance count Tuesday night.
"It was a human error that produced a mistake in the computer results," Johnson County Auditor Tom Slockett told reporters Wednesday during a news conference in the lobby of the Johnson County Administration Building.
The measure to keep people younger than 21 out of bars past 10 p.m. initially showed a narrow victory. However, tallies received about 15 minutes later reversed the reading, showing the 21-ordinance was defeated by a 57 percent to 43 percent margin.
Results are considered unofficial until the Johnson County Board of Supervisors canvasses the votes at 1 p.m. Tuesday.
The error was caused by a new computer procedure used to tally paper ballot results in Iowa City precincts. The votes for the 21-measure and Police Citizen's Review Board both ballot issues were added together rather than separately.
Slockett said the voting machines worked properly, so he does not see the need for a recount.
"I sincerely regret the error," he said, adding that testing procedures have been revised to prevent the error from happening again.
The problems on election night also have caught the attention of the Iowa Secretary of State's Office.
Iowa Secretary of State Michael Mauro said the incident was worth a look by his office.
"I have not received a call from anyone yet regarding that election," he said. "(But) there are 99 counties. We're not aware of issues in all those counties."
He said there is no history of problems on file regarding Johnson County elections.
Staff at the Auditor's Office was held up in meetings all day Wednesday investigating the cause of the glitch. Officials also said they didn't notice the problem during testing.
The sheer number of early voters ages 18 to 24 4,536 and additional satellite booths complicated the situation, Slockett said.
"There was an enormous amount of paperwork," he said, adding that the office had a backlog of work and had to call in extra workers. "All of this put my office in stress. I'm not making excuses, but that's the reality."
Elections in Johnson County in the past few years have been marked by technical difficulties or other problems. Last November, an absentee ballot machine d information, and in 2005, a poll worker called in a wrong number of write-in votes, which led to the wrong mayor being pronounced the winner in North Liberty.
"Because of the complicated nature of elections, we always have problems. It happens everywhere, not just in Johnson County," Slockett said.
He said the Auditor's Office will be prepared for the presidential election because they anticipate a large turnout.