The Pennington County Auditor’s Office used a $232,000 federal grant on two new high-tech ballot-counting machines this year to increase the speed and accuracy of its elections. So, how did it work? As with any new technology, there was a learning curve and bugs in the system that led to a long night for Auditor Julie Pearson and her staff, forced a tedious process of recounting or re-creating thousands of ballots on the fly and produced election results two hours later than usual. And yet, the problems ultimately had nothing to do with the new Election Systems & Software DS850 ballot machines, but rather were due to human error and inexperience with the technology, Pearson said on Friday. “The technology did exactly what it was supposed to do,” Pearson said. “We just had to change our processes.”
The delays in Pennington County were just one example of South Dakota’s voting problems that made election night stressful for auditors as well as candidates, voters and media members.
Release of the entire state’s set of results by the Secretary of State’s Office was delayed by an hour because two Shannon County poll workers didn’t show up on time.
That was followed by the ballot-counting problems in Pennington and Minnehaha counties, the state’s two most populous counties. Pearson said the ballot problems in Minnehaha were much the same as in Pennington. Minnehaha’s results weren’t known until late morning on Wednesday; Pearson said Pennington’s came in earlier than that because she called in extra staff members Tuesday night.