November 18, 2006
More Williamson election problems

Well, I thought that the explanation given for the Williamson County vote count discrepancies was a little lacking. Turns out I'm not alone in that.

Amid questions about the counting of early votes in the Williamson County elections, Elections Administrator Debra Stacy resigned Friday. County officials are now recounting all early votes in the Nov. 7 elections to clear up discrepancies in precinct-by-precinct totals.

Over the course of the election season under Stacy, there were kinks ranging from slow ballot counting on election night to more major problems with vote count discrepancies. The latest recount could end with a change in election results.

The most recent problem arose Thursday when several election judges reported that the county's final vote counts from their precincts did not match the number of signatures on the voting rolls.

The county surmised that the problem was with early voting totals when election workers found that some paper ballots were filed in the wrong precinct, said county spokeswoman Connie Watson. Residents don't have to vote in their precincts during early voting, so there is more of a chance of ballots getting mixed up during that time. Watson said these filing mixups were caused by precinct elections workers.

Before resigning, Stacy signed a court order to recount all early votes.

The electronic votes from Election Day have been recounted once because of other discrepancies found in vote totals. The day after the election, the county discovered that the final count of 91,000 votes was more than the approximately 84,500 signatures on sign-in sheets. Watson said at the time that it was an error in electronic voting machine software operated by Election Systems & Software Inc.

New results from the company's review of the audit trail of what happened election night show that the overcount was caused by human error, according to the company and Watson.

The votes are counted by cartridges taken from the 82 voting machines. Watson said Stacy was in charge of counting the electronic votes, and in the course of inserting the cartridges, the results from previous cartridges were added together instead of zeroing out before each new cartridge was read.

Watson said she did not know why the software was initially blamed, and Stacy did not return calls for comment.

Watson said the recount of all early votes should be completed Saturday, and the canvassing of votes is scheduled for Monday. Although county officials believe that only early voting was miscounted, they haven't ruled out a recount of all Election Day ballots.

Watson said it's possible that election results might be affected.

Okay, that qualifies as bad. And it demonstrates again that the problems with electronic voting machines are not just concerns about hacking, but problems with procedures. With a screwup of this magnitude, even if no race actually winds up with a different outcome, it's a good thing Stacy resigned, because she clearly was not up to the task. Eye on Williamson has more.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on November 18, 2006 to Election 2006 | TrackBack