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More voting problems in Williamson County
Officials blame computer software for voting overcount.

By Melissa Mixon
Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Williamson County elections officials are again having voting problems, and they're blaming the same computer software.

When final voting results were counted last week, county officials discovered that the actual total number of votes cast was lower than the initial totals compiled after the Nov. 7 elections.

County spokeswoman Connie Watson said that elections computer software counted each vote cast by electronic ballot three times, making the initial reported vote total about 6,500 more than the actual total.

County officials have said that the same software caused headaches during early voting.

Officials discovered the problem last week when they were comparing the software's number of reported votes to the number of signatures on sign-in sheets at voting places.

Watson said the error didn't affect any of this year's races because the percentages didn't change; it just inflated the voting numbers.

Originally, the final number of votes was reported as 91,000 votes. The correct total is 84,500 votes, county officials now say.

Watson said the county will be looking at the software and reviewing what went wrong.

Amanda Brown, a spokeswoman for Elections Systems & Software, the company that made the software, said the company believes that the problem was a human error, not the software.

"It's our belief right now it's related to a procedural error in operating the software," she said.

Brown said ES&S trains people on how to use the software.

She said the county has been using ES&S since 1991 and she said the company has not found the software to be responsible for either the higher voting totals or a glitch with early voting this year.

A few days before the Nov. 7 elections, a state-mandated test of the voting machines found that when a straight-party vote was cast, the screen didn't show that a candidate was picked for Precinct 3 county commissioner. The same glitch happened during early voting, Watson said.

Although the vote didn't show up on the screen, Watson said, it was still counted and recorded by the machine. The problem was fixed by Election Day.

Watson said that the corrected numbers were posted on the county's Web site Monday and that officials expect to post the final election results, including provisional ballots, today.

Leander Mayor John Cowman, whose city had a $36.6 million bond package in the elections, said he wasn't concerned about the error. Two portions of the bond package were rejected by voters, but Cowman said he has faith in the accuracy of the final vote.

"We don't expect any of them to be fool-proof, but we have confidence in our elections officials," he said.

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