Computer stalls vote count in W.Va.

November 13, 2000|By BOB PARTLOW

Computer stalls vote count in W.Va.

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A computer problem has been identified as the source of Berkeley County vote-counting delays Tuesday night, county officials said Monday.


Election workers tried one machine to run through the punch cards. It didn't work. A backup shared with Jefferson County also didn't work. A third machine, borrowed from Jefferson County when officials there were done counting, finally worked, but just barely.

"The reason we went through three machines was because it wasn't the machines, it was the PC (personal computer)," said County Commissioner Robert Burkhart.

The same theme was echoed by County Clerk John Small, who oversees county elections.

"It apparently wasn't sending the right message" to the vote-counting machine, he said.

The computer directs the actual piece of equipment through which the punch cards are run and the votes counted.

Burkhart said he was uncertain whether it was something in the specific program or the computer or the equipment itself.


"My understanding is that it was in the machine, not the program," he said. "That's why they had to bring in a brand new piece of equipment" for the automatic canvass of votes that begins this morning.

The problem was not caused by operator error by county election workers, he said.

"All the equipment was supplied by the company," he said.

The company is Election Systems and Software, Inc., from Omaha, Neb. The company sent a technician to the county late last week to identify the problem. The technician found the computer problem, Small and Burkhart said.

A spokesman for the company could not be reached for comment Monday.

Burkhart said the commissioners have not decided whether to pay the company because of the problems, which caused ballot counting to be delayed until almost 12 hours after the polls closed.

"The other thing is we had all these people sitting around that we were paying by the hour with nothing to do," he said. "It wasn't their fault.

We're going to have to take all that into account."

The commissioners will begin the automatic canvass of the votes beginning at 9:30 a.m. today. A technician from the company will be on hand to monitor the work and fix any new problems that might arise.

Burkhart said the quality of the canvass will play a role in whether the company gets paid.

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