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County officials fix old glitch, find possible new one  (KS)

KEVIN FLAHERTY   The Morning Sun   09 November 2008

The Crawford County Clerk's office discovered the reason for a problem that affected one race Saturday, but may have found another problem to work on.
Election officials and members of both parties gathered at 405 E. McKay starting at 9 a.m. to test out scanners used to tally votes in Tuesday's General Election, to both try to fix an existing problem and to troubleshoot for others.
They were successful on both fronts, finding a solution to a programming error discovered earlier this week, while finding another potential problem with scanning for the Arma Sales Tax question.
"We were able to find the problems at Countryside Christian Church, and we were able to fix the logic on the card," said Crawford County Clerk Don Pyle. "And now we've discovered what might have been an issue in Arma."
According to Pyle, the backup card wasn't counting votes on a question on Arma ballots asking voters whether they would approve of a half-cent sales tax increase to fund road improvements.
"We'll have to review that back in the office," Pyle said. "I can't see the outcome of that race really changing since it was approved by about 100 votes. But one of the machines might not have read votes on the sales tax question."
While the Arma issue still needs to be reviewed, Pyle said they found the solution for Countryside Christian Church, which saw errors in vote tabulating in Precincts 1, 2 and 6. The next step, he said, was to ask the Crawford County Commission for a recount when it canvasses at 9 a.m. Monday. Because the count would only span one ward, Pyle said his office could be finished with a count in about a day.
That error occurred when a card wasn't programmed to differentiate ballots by their sequencing numbers. Each county puts out a variety of ballots that alters the order in which candidates are listed, and each ballot is separated by a sequencing number at the bottom.
On the ballots in question, the sequencing numbers were 15, 16 and 17. The error came when the card didn't tell the scanner to read the difference between the three numbers; essentially, the scanner counted all three ballots as the number 15 ballot.
It became a problem because the candidates were listed in different orders on the three ballots. For instance, in the Crawford County attorney's race on ballot 15, John Gutierrez is listed first, and Michael Gayoso Jr. second. But on ballots 16 and 17, Gayoso is the top name, with Gutierrez underneath.
With the error then, a vote for Gayoso on ballot 17 was counted for Gutierrez, and vice versa. But it wasn't totally cut and dried there were some races where the order of the votes on ballots 15 and 16 or 15 and 17 were the same.
The glitch could also affect the vote totals in three other races U.S. Representative District 2, State Representative District 3 and State Senate District 13 though none of those races were close enough for the outcome to change.
The Crawford County Attorney's race was separated by just 70 votes on Election Day, with another 600-700 votes likely to be added through provisional ballots.
The error does not affect statewide races like those for U.S. President or U.S. Senate the ballot order for those positions vary by county, as based on estimated voter turnout.
"It showed the logic we thought it would," Pyle said. "It was something that wasn't really brought up in training, but it's something we'll practice on more in the future. We'll be more vigilant when we're doing the programming and testing."
Gayoso attended the testing, and while John Gutierrez couldn't make it, two of his assistants, Justen Phelps and Brian Duncan were also there, as was Crawford County Commissioner Ralph McGeorge. Also attending were Rob Lessen and Beth Bradrick, chairpeople of the Crawford County Republicans and Democrats, respectively.
"There hasn't been anything out of line," Lessen said. "There was a mistake made, and they're trying to figure out how to fix it."
Bradrick said she saw the problem as a "very serious matter."
"Particularly since we're using machines and there's always been some question about them and their accuracy and their fallibility," Bradrick said. "My concern is how this will impact upon voters in the future. Some people are very suspicious of them and will always want to do a paper ballot, particularly after (2000) down in Florida in the presidential election. It brought all this to our attention.
"I think every effort being made today (is) to make sure the machines do and record what they are supposed to," Bradrick said. "I think everybody's been very conscientious and bending over backwards to make sure that's the case."

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