The Finney County Clerk’s office is reporting that a computer system malfunction Tuesday night led to an error in the precinct ballot numbers reported by various media outlets covering the local elections. It also led to confusion for people waiting for results to be posted at the clerk’s office Tuesday night. Election workers who posted the results said they were unofficial, but many observers left with the impression that, other than the normal provisional ballots that are counted when all results are canvassed, there weren’t additional regular ballots to be counted. None of the unofficial winners changed as a result of the error. Election results will be canvassed at 9 a.m. Monday in the Finney County Commission chambers at the County administrative Center, 311 N. Ninth St. County Clerk Elsa Ulrich said the computer problem was discovered Tuesday night after polls closed and the results began to be tallied. Ulrich said a card that contains a program reads ballots as they go through the counting machine. The results are saved to a disk. But for an unknown reason, the card would not read in Ulrich’s card reader.
“Until the card was read, I didn’t know how many ballots were counted at each precinct,” she said. “I insert it into one of my card readers and it drops into a software program. The problem was it wouldn’t go into the software program.”
Ulrich said a programmer with ES&S of Omaha, Neb., was trying to get the reader to work, but the problem wasn’t fixed until Wednesday morning, which allowed the card to be read and additional vote totals to be posted. “The card wasn’t read last night. We got it to read this morning,” she said. The clerk’s office issued a couple of updates on Wednesday, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.
The city sales tax question still appears to have passed, though the margin fluctuated from 1,327-252 initially, to 1,277-248 Wednesday morning, to 1,685-359 Wednesday afternoon. Wednesday afternoon’s Garden City Commission totals indicated Janet Doll finished with 1,281 votes, Chris Law 1,251 and Troy Unruh 1,161. The top three vote-getters earn seats on the commission, with the top two earning four-year terms and the third-place vote-getter a two-year term. Melvin Dale had 1,153 votes and was in fourth, and Harold Starr finished with 256 votes.
It was a whirlwind morning Wednesday for Dale and Unruh. Unruh had a three-vote lead over Dale, according to Tuesday night’s numbers, then trailed by 16 votes when new numbers came out Wednesday morning, and ended ahead by eight votes in the afternoon. Dale said he left the clerk’s office Tuesday night assuming he had lost by three votes to Unruh for the third spot on the commission. “I thought that was it. That’s why I lost sleep all night,” Dale said Wednesday.
Dale certainly did not think there were hundreds of additional votes left. “I thought those were the results, and they’d be finalized later,” he said. “I don’t know what the problem is over there. I don’t have any power over there. I just have to rely on those people that whatever happened was an honest mistake, and it was corrected and corrected properly.”