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Software glitch delays vote count; County officials are concerned, disappointed, frustrated with problem (WV)
Times West Virginian. November 5, 2008. By Paul Fallon

FAIRMONT — The car bearing the personal electronic ballots for the last precinct arrived at the Marion County Election Center at 9 p.m. Tuesday.

However, the tension continued to mount at the election headquarters when 4,600 early votes could not be counted because of a glitch in the PEB reading software.

County employees along with the technician for Election Systems and Software (ES&S), the company which supplied the voting machines, worked feverishly to solve the problem.

At about 9:20 p.m., a decision was made to begin counting the votes that had come in from the county’s 76 precincts and tally the early votes last. When the first votes were tallied by the computer, a cheer went up from the crowd, many of who had been working since the early morning hours.

“I’m very disappointed with the software system that reads and tallies the votes,” Marion County Clerk Janice Cosco said.

She pointed out that if the system had worked properly, all of the votes would have been tallied by about 9:20 p.m. By 10 p.m., all of the early votes and votes from the county’s 76 precincts had been tallied except for one, Precinct 83. That precinct was finally counted at about 11:15 p.m.

“I’m very frustrated with the fact that we had an ES&S technician here and he couldn’t get the machine to tally the early votes,” said Commission Randy Elliott. “His sole purpose was to eliminate problems like this.”

Commissioner Wayne Stutler said that he was concerned with the fact that the county had used the machines for the past several years, only to encounter problems this election.

“This shouldn’t have happened,” he said.

Commission President Alan Parks could not be reached for comment.

Cosco said that a few minor maintenance issues had been reported with the voting machines when the polls opened on Election Day. She said that paper had slipped off a few of the rolls in a few machines and that some of the power strips used needed attention. However, she added that the issues had been dealt with as quickly as possible.

A total of 24,057 of the 42,340 registered voters cast their ballots in the general election, which equaled more than 56 percent. Cosco said she was not surprised with the number of people who turned out to vote on Tuesday.

“The presidential election caused a lot of interest,” Cosco said. “And some of the local races did, too.”

A total of 4,622 early votes were cast during the election. Cosco pointed out that was the highest number of early votes ever to be cast in the county. There were also 550 absentee by mail ballots cast. The election results will become official after the vote canvass.

E-mail Paul Fallon at pfallon@timeswv.com.


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