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Election discrepancies explained

Posted: Friday, Nov 19th, 2010

SAGUACHE — One of the primary issues revolving around the retabulation of the votes cast on Nov. 2 was the cause of the error that resulted in the generation of additional votes.

During the review process conducted by the Secretary of State’s Office this week, County Clerk Melinda Myers issued an official log of events for election night and ES&S technician Timothy King offered a further explanation of the machine malfunction they believe caused the error.

“The county judges arrived at approximately 1 p.m. and started counting the early voting ballots. They saved the results to a disc, loaded into ES&S Unity Election Results Management (ERM) and the ES&S M650 Ballot Scanner tally totals were zeroed before any more ballots were counted.

“The mail-in ballots received prior to election night were counted following the early voting ballots, saved the results to a disc, loaded into ERM and the M650 tally totals were zeroed before any more ballots were counted.

“The counting of the Polling Place ballots began soon after 7 p.m. and were counted as the election judges returned from the different precincts to deliver the ballots cast, saved the results to a disc, loaded into ERM and the M650 tally totals were zeroed before any more ballots were counted.

“The mail-in ballots received at the precinct polling places were counted and added to the results already on the Mail-in disc. loaded into ERM and the M650 tally totals were zeroed before any more ballots were counted.

“The UOCAVA [overseas] ballots were counted and loaded into ERM.

At 1:08 a.m., a report of the final totals of all the ballots counted for the evening, which did not include UOCAVA, DRE (electronic votes) or provisional ballots was printed and posted in the lobby in the Saguache County Courthouse.

Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2010

“While entering the totals into a spreadsheet the next day, it was obvious the amount of mail-in votes on the printed report did not match the amount of mail-in ballots received.  After the discrepancy was discovered, we immediately contacted ES&S and the Secretary of State for assistance. 

 “The Secretary of State’s Office suggested a “retabulation” be conducted to ensure we had the correct results, which was done on Nov. 5.

“The difference between the two counts was a total of 197 mail-in votes which can be explained by reviewing the events log in the ERM system. The ERM events log indicates the final mail-in results were loaded into ERM and the Precinct 5 results inadvertently replaced by the Precinct 5 Polling Place results.

“It is not possible to identify how, it was simply an error in the process of transferring the results from the M650 counting machine to the ERM system.

“The total mail-in votes counted on Nov. 2 and on Nov. 5 were both 2,848 according to the events log printed off of the ES&S counting machine, which continuously prints each action as each button is pressed.

Election machine

technician's report

ES&S technician Timothy King visited Saguache County on Monday, Nov. 15.  He noted that the reports run on election night (Nov. 2 and morning of Nov. 3) were 197 votes short in the mail-in ballot group.  The correct total for the mail-in group was 2,848 ballots, he said. The reports run on election night showed 2,651 ballots.

 The cause for the discrepancy “was loading of their Polling Places (Election Day) precincts 0013* and 0014* into the mail-in group in replace mode. By replacing the totals in those two precincts, the numbers went down for the group. Note that these are actually two splits of Precinct 5.”

King further reported that he reviewed the ERM system log and found the following:

Loaded Precincts 0001 through 00024 (all precincts) from the M650 results disk

On Nov. 3 at 12:59 a.m., Precinct 0013 had 574 ballots cast. On Nov. 3 at 12:59 a.m., Precinct 0014 had 150 ballots cast (574+150 = 724)

They then almost immediately loaded a 650 results zip that contained only precincts 13 and 14 polling place results into the mail-in group, replacing the totals above. On Nov 3 at 12:59 a.m. Precinct 0013 then had 401 ballots cast and on Nov. 3 at 12:59 a.m. Precinct 0014 had 126 ballots cast (401+126 = 527). 

“The difference between the two updates is 197.” King said. “If we subtract that from the correct number of 2,848 the result is the incorrect total of 2,651 which was on the reports.”

He also reported that the Model 650 System Log printer jammed on election night and county personnel did not print a Grand Totals or Precinct report on the 650 that night. The final total for the mail-in group was readable on the log, showing 2,848.  They reran all their ballots on Nov. 5 and got the same results for the mail-ins (2,848) at that time.  They loaded the rerun 650 disk into ERM and it shows the correct, matching total.

They had some bad luck with a copy they made of the election night mail-in results zip disk. One or more files on the copy are unreadable so they were unable to load those totals back into ERM during trouble-shooting when trying to verify the totals. 


Other than the one error loading the wrong group totals into the mail-in group, King said he did not see any procedural issues in his review of the ERM system log.  “My only suggestion is to print the final reports on the 650 itself and use those to verify that the reporting software totals match,” he concluded. 

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