Error comes from voting machine programming (KS)
KEVIN FLAHERTY The Morning Sun 07 November 2008
Crawford County Clerk Don Pyle told Crawford County Commissioners Friday morning about an error in reading votes that could affect the outcome of the already tight Crawford County attorney’s race.
The error came from a programming glitch in the card that tells the machines what to do. In this specific case, the card didn’t ask a scanner used at Countryside Christian Church — affecting Pittsburg Ward Four, precincts one, two and six — to follow sequencing.
According to state election law, each county must put out a variety of ballots that alter the order of the candidates.
“It’s a fairness thing, because studies show that the person on top is more likely to get votes than the people at the bottom,” said Liz Hart, Crawford County director of election services.
To tell the difference between ballots, every ballot has a sequencing number at the bottom. In the ballots in question, the sequencing numbers were 15, 16 and 17. The error came when the card didn’t tell the scanner to read the difference between the three numbers; essentially, the scanner counted all three ballots as the number 15 ballot.
This became a problem because the order of the candidates was different. For instance, in the Crawford County attorney’s race on ballot 15, John Gutierrez is listed first, and Michael Gayoso Jr. second. But on ballots 16 and 17, Gayoso is the top name, with Gutierrez underneath.
With the error then, a vote for Gayoso on ballot 17 was counted for Gutierrez, and vice versa. At the same time, there are some races where a vote on ballot 16 would be the same as a vote on ballot 17.
“We really won’t know how many votes this affects until we’re finished with the testing,” Pyle said.
Pyle said after the meeting that the glitch could affect four races — U.S. Representative District 2, State Represenatitive District 3, State Senate District 13 and the Crawford County Attorney’s race — though three of those races aren’t tight enough for it to make a large difference. The Crawford County Attorney’s race was separated by just 70 votes on Election Day, with another 700 votes likely to be added through provisional ballots.
The error does not affect statewide races like those for U.S. President or U.S. Senate — the ballot order for those positions vary by county, as based on estimated voter turnout.
This is the first election that Crawford County officials attempted to program the ballots and the election equipment themselves. It’s a program that Pyle said several Kansas counties began in an attempt to keep election costs down.
The Crawford County Clerk’s office will hold a public testing of the equipment starting at 9 a.m. Saturday at the election equipment storage facility located at 405 E. McKay in Frontenac.
If the testing goes as planned and the glitch is caught, Pyle said he anticipates asking commissioners for a recount of the Countryside Christian Church ballots, along with advance ballots that went through the scanner, when they convene Monday to canvass the votes.