Glitch in database delays vote count by 90 minutes (OH)
Toledo Blade. September 17, 2009. By TOM TROY, BLADE POLITICS WRITER
Toledo's mayoral primary results were delayed up to 90 minutes because of a database error that was not discovered until the Lucas County Board of Elections started crunching the election results late Tuesday night.
As a result, the public did not get a count with all 279 precincts until just before 1 a.m., when the election parties had pretty much died out and most Toledoans were snug in bed.
Elections officials said yesterday the problem was caused by a database glitch that their touch-screen-machine vendor, Premier Election Solutions Inc., of Allen, Texas, assured them would not be a problem.
The glitch occurred when the elections staff tried to merge the database of votes cast at the Early Voting Center, 653 Miami St., with the database containing the rest of the approximately 40,000 votes cast.
When the two databases didn't merge, the election board staff lost time waiting for Premier's representative to implement a fix, said Linda Howe, the elections director.
She said the promise of a 10-minute fix dragged on to 45 minutes. Others estimated the delay at an hour or longer.
"He kept saying it was going to be fixed. I said you keep working on it; we're going to load the cards," Ms. Howe said, referring to the data memory cards used in the touch-screen machines at 130 polling locations around the county.
Ms. Howe said the problem was fixed after the elections board added the numbers from the early voting center manually, using six people with calculators to make sure there were no mistakes. The process was first cleared through the Ohio Secretary of State's office.
A spokesman for Premier could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Many political veterans recall getting complete election results well before the 11 p.m. newscasts. In recent years, after electronic voting machines replaced mechanical machines, it often is past midnight before final results are reported.
Last year's presidential election results were complete around 10 a.m. the following day.
Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken was one of those waiting in frustration for the seeming logjam to be removed as the minutes ticked by Tuesday night.
He said he looks forward to speaking with Ms. Howe about how the process can be speeded up.
"I'd be anxious to sit down with the elections director and find out what the issues were. Maybe there's a good explanation for it. Even in a low turnout, people still like to know the results," Mr. Gerken said. "We've gotten used to where we had results pretty quickly."
Gary Johnson, a Democratic member of the four-member Board of Elections, said the delay was 90 minutes.
He said there may be ways to speed up the processing of election results, but that should not happen at the expense of accuracy.
The board of elections has 24 regular staff and hires 1,200 temporary workers to staff polling places. Those people are paid $130 for the day with the polling captains getting $170.
The process used Tuesday was that the poll workers at each polling location would shut down the polls at 7:30 p.m. and then close out each machine, a process that could take from 45 minutes to twice that long.
Once the machines were shut down, the memory cards and any paper ballots were taken to one of four substations where sheriff's vans would collect the bags and boxes and take them to the Early Voting Center for counting.
The first cards began arriving at the vote-counting center about
9:30 p.m., he said.
By 11 p.m. about half the vote was counted and reported on the Board of Elections' Web site.
Ms. Howe and deputy director Jeremy Demagall said they have implemented several procedures this year, including the ability to track each bag containing memory cards wirelessly, as shipping companies do. Mr. Demagall said that eliminated a time-consuming check-in step.
But Mr. Johnson said the best way to speed up the counting is to do away with the neighborhood polling places and establish a handful of voting centers.
"If I wanted to try to speed up the results of the election and put more control on how we tabulated faster, I would look to have voting centers rather than polling places," he said.
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