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County's count last in state; Glitch delays Wayne election results until after midnight (IN)
Pal-Item.com. November 6, 2008. BY BILL ENGLE 

John McCain wasn't the only also-ran on Election Day.

The national media placed Wayne County last in Indiana in counties reporting election results.

Results were released to the public at 12:10 a.m. Wednesday, long after McCain, the Republican Party's presidential candidate, had conceded the race for the White House to Democrat Barack Obama.

County officials said part of the problem was a computer glitch that stopped the vote count. Part was the large number of absentee ballots cast.

And part might be the local policy that says that no results will be released until all the ballots are in and counted.

"I would never give out any results until we had them all in and counted," said Wayne County Clerk Sue Anne Lower.

"We had 4,300 absentee ballots to open and count. We started counting them at 8 a.m. and didn't get done until 10:30 or quarter to 11.

"And it was the granddaddy of elections. We had less registered (than the last presidential election in 2004), but we had more voters."

Wayne County used vote centers for its polling, one of three Indiana counties to use that method. Voters cast ballots in eight locations around the county. Voters countywide could vote at any of the centers.

Voters could also vote at some centers during the week prior to Election Day.

Glitch was culprit

It was the computer glitch that mainly slowed the count here.

When local officials tried to tally the vote they received a "system error" message. They stopped the count, secured the votes and then had to wait for an answer to the problem from company officials at Election Systems & Software, which provided the computer system for the local election.

The call to officials in Omaha, Neb., took well over an hour.

"I didn't plan to be late," Lower said. "I would have liked to have been earlier but things didn't work out that way."

Said Wayne County Commissioner Ken Paust: "Sometimes things happen. You do everything you can to make sure it doesn't happen, and then it happens. It was one little glitch in an otherwise very smooth election."

Mary Heyob, president of the board of commissioners, said ES&S officials were investigating the problem Wednesday and would report back to county officials.

"We would rather be first and we'll probably be right back there in the next election," she said. "Otherwise, the vote centers went very smoothly."

Others fared better
Vote centers also were used in Cass and Tippecanoe counties.

In Cass County, 75 miles directly north of Indianapolis, officials released the absentee and previous week's results at approximately 6:05 p.m. Tuesday, said County Clerk Linda Crimmins. By 6:15 p.m. officials released results from the county's first vote center.

By 7:15 p.m., officials released all the results.

"Things went extremely well," Crimmins said. "I'm delighted with the vote centers. But my heart goes out to (Lower). When that equipment breaks down, you are at its mercy."

Cass County has 22,331 registered voters. About 72 percent, or 15,993 voted, including 10,500 who voted early.

Wayne County has 51,800 registered voters. Of those, 29,085, or 56.15 percent, voted in the election. About 18,000 voted early.

In Tippecanoe County, a computer glitch also slowed the release of final numbers. Heather Maddox, co-director of the county's Board of Elections, said final results were not out until about 11:30 p.m.

But officials there released early voting results at 7 p.m. and results from the first of 20 vote centers at 7:45 p.m. and followed with results at short intervals after that.

"(The glitch) was a weird ending to what had been a really smooth day," Maddox said. "We couldn't believe how smoothly the day went. If we had not had that problem, we would have been done by 10 (p.m.)."

Tippecanoe County has about 90,000 registered voters and 69,466 voted.

Rigorous testing
ES&S spokeswoman Nicole Slater said her company "rigorously tests machines before they see the light of day." She added that county officials also test machines before each election.

Indiana state law is vague about when results must be released to the public, saying only that results "must be released in a timely fashion." Results have to be submitted to the Secretary of State's office by Nov. 17, said Jim Gavin, communications director.

"There are still counties that have not shared their results with our Election Division," Gavin said Wednesday afternoon.

"There's nothing that they didn't do right. It's just that somebody has to be last."

Reporter Bill Engle: (765) 973-4481 or bengle@pal-item.com

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