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Glitch holds up Tehama results

Votes were counted, but power outage, other problems delayed the tally

By Kimberly Ross, Record Searchlight
November 10, 2006

RED BLUFF A computer glitch held up unofficial election results until early Wednesday, after which a power outage delayed canvassing until Thursday, but Tehama County election officials said those minor problems have been resolved.

Early election results were posted on the county's Web site around 8 and 10 p.m. Tuesday, with about half the county's precincts reporting, Assistant Clerk and Recorder Bev Ross said Thursday.

But when it came time to release the final batch of results late Tuesday, tabulation machines incorrectly labeled about 500 paper-ballot votes cast at polling places as absentee-ballot votes, Ross said.

"The votes were all there ... they were just going into the wrong category," she said.

Election workers had the unofficial results of all the races Tuesday night, but did not want to release them until they were correctly categorized, Ross said.

"That would have been inaccurate. We did not want that," she said.

Although the county uses electronic voting machines at polling sites, paper ballots are provided for voters uneasy with the new touch-screen devices, Ross said.

A representative from Sequoia Voting System, the county's voting machine vendor, is present for all its elections but was unable to figure out the problem Tuesday, Ross said. Technical support workers helped solve the problem later by phone.

Ross said she was told machines had been incorrectly set to receive information for the wrong type of machine, although she wasn't certain of the cause Thursday.

A 2:30 a.m. Wednesday posting on the county's Web site showed the final official tally, but did not include more than 2,000 absentee ballots still left uncounted as of Thursday afternoon, Ross said.

The problem had nothing to do with the county's electronic voting machines, used since the March 2004 election, nor did the categorizing problem keep any votes from being counted, she said.

Canvassing the election would have begun Wednesday, but a power outage that morning blacked out lights as well as computers, Ross said.

A failed regulator caused the outage, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. spokeswoman Lisa Randle said Thursday. It lasted from about 9 a.m. to noon and affected 3,666 customers in northwest Red Bluff, she said.

Despite the setbacks, the election's canvass started before 8 a.m. Thursday, as required, Ross said.

Canvassing involves processing absentee ballots and provisional ballots, verifying the number of votes cast and conducting a hand-count of 1 percent of the total votes to ensure accuracy in tabulation.

The process is expected to last one to two weeks, Ross said.

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