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About 600 Medford ballots cast in November ignored
By Jake Rigdon, For the Marshfield News-Herald (Wisconsin)
March 12, 2005.

MEDFORD - About 27 percent of all votes cast in Medford during the Nov. 2 election were not counted because a programmer improperly set the device that records the ballots, officials say.

Medford uses a voting machine purchased in 1999 that electronically counts the votes. The machine requires a software programmer from Election Systems & Software to set it for partisan elections, which the programmer failed to do, said Taylor County Clerk Bruce Strama.

That failure meant that the votes of everyone who voted straight ticket - anyone who voted only for candidates of a single party - were not counted. In all, about 600 of 2,256 ballots cast were not counted, Strama said.

"There's really nothing voters can do at this point," said Kevin Kennedy, the executive secretary of the State Elections Board. "But they need to be assured that the city, county and state are making sure that this never happens again."

The board did not know about the Medford problem until learning about it from a reporter. Kennedy said a representative from his office will oversee a recount of the votes in Medford on Monday.

Strama said this had never before happened in Medford. However, none of the county seats were contested in the November election, he said, so the mistake had no impact on local races.
President Bush received 906 votes in Medford compared with Democrat John Kerry's 692 votes, but that does not include the votes that did not count.

The news comes less than a month before the April 5 election, in which four City Council members are up for re-election. Strama said now that the cause of the problem has been discovered, an error like that shouldn't happen again.

Medford and Taylor County officials have been told by Nebraska-based Election Systems & Software that the city will be reimbursed for the costs of setting up the vote-counting machine in the fall because the program was faulty. A spokeswoman said the company takes full responsibility for the error.

The gap first was discovered by Practical Political Consulting, which operates in the state as Wisconsin Voter Lists. It discovered the discrepancy by comparing the number of voters who showed up at the polls with the number of votes for president. Practical Political Consulting is an independent firm that sells voter lists to political candidates.

The company backs the Democratic party, said Mark Grebner, 52, its owner. "We're interested in how the whole state elections system works, or in (Wisconsin's case), doesn't work," he said. "When we're building lists of people who voted, and something like (Medford's situation) stands out that much, then it's time for my guys to get on the phone with clerks and (ask questions)."

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