The person responsible for a human foible that turned the 6th Commission District results upside down during Tuesday’s Republican primary has claimed full responsibility and absolved the Washington County Election Commission from any wrongdoing. Indianapolis-based MicroVote General Corp. President Jim Ries confirmed in a news release Thursday that an employee error resulted in an inaccurate vote total posted on the Washington County Election Commission website. “Official voting tallies were unaffected by this website posting error, which was unrelated to the official counting of ballots,” Ries said. “We have identified the reason that the website posting error occurred and are putting into place steps to insure that such an error does not occur in the future.” The person directly responsible for the gaffe is Bill Whitehead, MicroVote’s Tennessee project manager. Whitehead emailed Washington County Administrator of Elections Maybell Stewart on Wednesday night to say an exact explanation of what happened was forthcoming. “Not to imply that your local media would misinterpret any information, but we are always cautiously guarded about what the press will receive, as in many cases they are spin doctors and we want to protect you and everyone involved in this process from a misinterpretation,” Whitehead told Stewart.
Whitehead said he understood the mistake put the Election Commission in a difficult position and profusely apologized. “You know that this is on me, and that you did your job and performed your responsibilities to the highest level,” he said. “But as you also know now, this is 100 percent complete human error. My human error. Both the Infinity Software and the Election Management Software behaved properly and as they should have.”
While the tabs, or paper printouts from voting machines, posted Tuesday on walls indicated Republican challenger Tom Foster’s success, the Election Commission website showed incumbent Commissioner Mark Ferguson besting the field. That’s when the calls started pouring in.
It seems the candidates’ names were not in alphabetical order, as they should have been. That resulted in the wrong numbers being credited. Maybell Stewart contacted the MicroVote technician, and he reset the lineup — or so he thought.
It turns out he forgot to click “save,” meaning the tally still showed Ferguson topping the field. In fact, Ferguson received only about 11 percent of the vote — far short of making the top three who now move on to the Aug. 7 county general election.