Election results in question after voting machine glitch discovered (PA)
Scranton Times. November 6, 2009. BY BORYS KRAWCZENIUK (STAFF WRITER)
A glitch in Lackawanna County voting machines might have cost Councilwoman Janet Evans and tax collector candidate Bill Courtright as many as 2,452 votes each, and is spurring questions about the accuracy of other counts.
Director of Elections Maryann Spellman Young blamed the glitch on a lack of specific computer coding for straight-party voting by the machine manufacturer, Elections Systems & Software of Omaha, Neb.
Ms. Spellman Young said the glitch was corrected Thursday and did not affect any other candidates.
But District Attorney Andy Jarbola said he might ask for a further review. Lance Stange, the campaign manager for Republican judicial candidate Frank Castellano, said he wants a hand-count of a sample of machines to check the computer-counted results, as required by law.
"Frankly, this should have been caught before the election," Mr. Stange said.
Ms. Spellman Young said she did not know how the glitch went undetected during pre-election testing.
"It should have been caught on their end," she said, referring to the manufacturer.
Electronic Systems & Software issued a statement backing up Ms. Spellman Young's assertions.
"Upon discovery of the error, ES&S re-examined the full election coding to find that all other contests were coded accurately," the
statement said. Efforts to reach a company spokeswoman were unsuccessful.
Ms. Spellman Young said she believes election officials would have discovered the problem during the official count, which starts today.
Straight-party voting means voting for all the candidates from the same party. That's done by filling in the oval next to the party name at the top of the ballot. Tuesday's election was the first time since using the new voting machines where some candidates had both party nominations.
Ms. Spellman Young said the problem was discovered after a member of Mrs. Evans' family pointed out her vote total in one precinct seemed to lack straight-party votes.
Unofficial results showed Mrs. Evans finished third overall in the five-person City Council race for three council seats. That was a surprise considering she had the Democratic and Republican nominations and the four other candidates had only one nomination.
Election officials checked a summary of vote totals and found no party designation next to the names of Mrs. Evans and Mr. Courtright, who also had both nominations. Election Systems & Software checked and found the proper coding missing.
If each gets all the straight-party votes, Mrs. Evans would become the high vote-getter in the City Council race while Mr. Courtright would become top vote-getter among all city races.
The unofficial results had Patrick Rogan on top with 8,902 votes followed by Frank Joyce, 8,735; Mrs. Evans, 8,477; Doug Miller, 4,619; and Lee Morgan, 3,835. Mr. Courtright had 10,959.
With all 2,452 straight party votes - 400 Republican, 2,052 Democratic - counted, Mrs. Evans could have 10,929 votes and Mr. Courtright would have 13,411.
They may not receive all the straight-party votes, however. Voters who fill in the straight-party oval are still allowed to change their vote to candidates of another party when filling in the ovals for any particular race.
Family members said Mrs. Evans had become ill since the election and was unavailable for comment Thursday.
Chris Evans, her son, who helped run her campaign, said his mother was bedridden, though he expected her to be up again soon.
"We were very pleased with the results we got Tuesday night," he said, adding that victory for the team was the main goal. "If it turns out she got more votes, that's even better."
Mr. Courtright said the additional votes matter less than the need for election officials to make sure the glitch never happens again, so voters are not discouraged from future voting.
Mr. Jarbola, who also had both nominations and was unopposed, said his concern is rooted in the smaller number of votes recorded in his race and county row officers races compared with the county judge race.
A total of 48,780 votes were recorded in the judge race, but only 39,720 for district attorney, 38,157 for sheriff, 36,030 for recorder of deeds and 36,020 for register of wills, according to the county's unofficial count. All the races were uncontested. The difference in ballots between his race and the judges is more than twice the normal difference between contested and uncontested races, Mr. Jarbola said.
He probably will wait until after the official count before deciding his next step, he said.
"Whatever has to be done to protect the integrity of the election process, it should be done," Mr. Jarbola said.
Countywide, there were 6,439 Democratic and 2,246 Republican straight-party votes cast.
But Ms. Spellman Young said she is sure straight-party votes counted in other races, because the number of voters in each case equals the sum of the votes cast plus undervotes, she said. Undervotes are when someone votes for no one at all in a race.
Mrs. Bisignani Moyle said she is sure her race was property counted because "the numbers in my race add up."
Roger Dupuis II, staff writer, contributed to this report.