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Software problem election issue; Officials unhappy about time needed to resolve matter (WV)
Times West Virginian. November 6, 2008. By Katie Wilson

FAIRMONT — Following the election, Marion County’s election officials are pleased with the voting machines but unhappy with the software.

County Clerk Janice Cosco said the computer software usually has a problem tabulating the early votes, but the problem is generally resolved very quickly. Once the tabulation gets going, everything’s finished in short order.

Tuesday night, that didn’t happen.

The final precincts rolled into the county election center at 9 p.m., but problems with the tabulation center prevented returns from being released for more than an hour. Thanks to a problem with a battery in one machine, the final unofficial results weren’t counted until 11:15 p.m.

In contrast, for May’s primary election, final unofficial results were tallied and released at 9:23 p.m.

Cosco said the problem involved the tabulation software, called Unity.

The Unity software is designed to take all types of votes, including early voting, absentee by mail, election day, provisional ballots and write-ins and organize and count them.

There was some sort of technical problem, Cosco doesn’t know exactly what, that prevented anything from happening.

She said there has been problems with the Unity software from the beginning, but they have never been this large before.

The software is a product of Election Systems & Software, the company that created the voting machines. As part of the county’s contract with ES&S, a technician was on hand Tuesday night to cover any problems, Cosco said, but he seemed unable to help with the software issue.

“The fellow from ES&S, I didn’t think he was qualified to deal with the Unity software,” Cosco said. “He was qualified for the machines, but he had to call tech support and was on the phone trying to repair the problem. I was disappointed.”

Cosco said other county clerks have told her Marion County’s issue was relatively minor.

“The voting machines are the best, but I’m not happy with the tech support,” Cosco said.

Other than the tabulation problem, election day went off without a hitch, Cosco said. One voting machine had a problem with at roll of paper slipping out of place, and there were several problems with power cords, she said.

“There were a few minor glitches but nothing we couldn’t take care of,” she said.

Mary Gay Priolette, voter registration clerk in Cosco’s office, said she was very pleased with the turnout of more than 56 percent, though officials always hope for higher.

“It was beautiful weather and people were able to get out,” she said. “It was just wonderful.”

The election canvass will begin Monday at the election center.

E-mail Katie Wilson at kwilson@timeswv.com.


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