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Dead battery caused delay of vote count, officials say (NC)
Sun Journal. November 5, 2008. by Sue Book.

State and county officials say a dead battery caused the delay in counting Craven County votes after Tuesday's election.

The problem did not involve computer software, as officials had first thought. The battery was in a machine at the Cove City early-voting site. If the battery hadn't failed, the early votes could have been counted quickly from information stored on a flash card. Instead, a slower method had to be used.

Tonya Pitts, Craven County elections director, and Rosemary Blizzard, N.C. State Board of Elections technician, said the battery problem came into play when poll workers at Cove City attempted to close the voting machines on Saturday.

"Software was not an issue," Pitts said. "It was not a voting equipment error or problem. And fortunately, we have four different methods to retrieve the results."

"Our mantra is ‘it is more important to have the results right than right now,'" Blizzard said. "Anytime you work with computers, software, and a timeframe with pressure, things happen. That's why it is so important to have a backup plan. Tonya and I talked and we decided to make sure the results were as accurate as possible."

At about 8 p.m. Tuesday, Craven County Republican Party Chairman Michael Speciale said he thought the election had gone smoother than any he had been involved with in the county.  But at midnight, many were still waiting for the unofficial final returns. The numbers were not posted until 1:12 a.m. Wednesday.

The early one-stop votes were cast by 40 percent of the county's 68,190 registered voters. They were expected to be the first results posted and to be available just after the polls closed at 7:30 p.m.

But as Pitts began to download the vote totals from Cove City, the process did not work and she called the State Board of Elections technicians for assistance.

Other than the delay in returns, Pitts said, there were very few actual voting problems.

"It was an emotionally charged election and people were very short-tempered about everything," she said. "I took a lot of calls and explained election laws that applied to their particular problem. Some of them still said they were going to call the State Board of Elections."

Pitts went to seven polling places to deal with minor voting machine concerns, such as a metal bar not being removed from the ballot scanner at Havelock East Precinct. That problem was easily fixed.

The problem with the scanner not reading some ballots at Harlowe Precinct was one experienced statewide, she said. It happened because people coming in out of the rain left moisture on some ballots, making them unreadable by the machine.

Between 500 and 1,000 Craven County provisional ballots remained to be counted Wednesday.

The canvass that determines the official vote for Tuesday's election will be Nov. 14.


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