County revises election results due to computer ‘glitch’
Published 1:38 pm Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Becky Kennedy, chair of the county board of elections, says the county asked Karen Brinson, the district elections technician for the state, to visit Polk County yesterday to assess the problem. Brinson reportedly rebooted the computer and&bsp;proper functioning was restored. Kennedy says a setting on the computer used to properly report results was possibly &uot;clicked or unclicked,&uot; and it&39;s underdetermined how or why. She says there is no evidence of any problem with the accuracy of the voting machines in the county or anywhere else in the state, and the change in the report setting on the computer could have resulted simply from a power surge. Kennedy says the elections board apologizes for the confusion, and it plans to begin its usual process of verifying elections results. The county already has checked the results in the computer against those on the printed tape and&bsp;plans to go back and&bsp;check results&bsp;again in each precinct&bsp;before verifying official election results on November 14. &bsp;According to the latest results issued Wednesday morning, Walker finished with 5,101 votes, McDermott 5,036 and Gasperson 4,982. They were followed by Republican candidates Owens at 4,976, David Moore at 4,938 and Tom Pack at 4,901. Both Owens and Pack were incumbents.
The county board is now entirely Democratic, just two elections after it was entirely Republican.
The revised results end a roller-coaster ride for Gasperson and Owens who have gone back and forth between thinking they were in and then were out.
The revised results mirror what was reported early Tuesday night at the headquarters of both the Republican and Democratic party headquarters in Columbus.
After receiving reports from each precinct and tallying the totals (by hand on a board rather than on a computer), both headquarters reported early that Walker was the top vote-getter, followed by McDermott and Gasperson.
Based on those results, Gasperson gave an acceptance speech at his party&squo;s headquarters, along with his fellow Democratic candidates. He flashed a big smile and voiced gratitude and excitement for the win, even sharing thoughts about his work ahead on the county board.
However, just a short time later he visited the elections office to get a copy of the official results, and learned that he not only lost, but apparently finished last. As he stood in the elections office, Gasperson was clearly upset and disappointed by the abrupt change in results. He questioned the figures but went home thinking he was out.
On Wednesday, he learned he was back in, but he made it clear he still felt uneasy about the results.
&dquo;I was actually okay with it last night,&dquo; said Gasperson, hesitating to fully accept that he had won. &dquo;I was disappointed but felt like the county would have experienced a loss with the way I would have come across with trying to bring divergent groups together.&dquo;
Meanwhile, Republican candidate Owens followed a similar rolller-coaster ride, but in reverse. He initially thought he finished fourth and was narrowly defeated by Gasperson. Although he was clearly disappointed by the loss, he expressed some relief that he would not be the only Republican on the board.
Owens shared the news with friends and family, but only a short time later heard a very different outcome from the elections office. The county reported that Owens was not only in the top three, but finished a close second, giving him a four-year term.
Yet, a few hours later the results changed once again from the elections office.
After the results were questioned by the Bulletin, elections director Edwards said she too thought something was not right with the results and she returned to the elections office. At 1 a.m. her office printed out results that now appear to be correct, but the results did not match what she was seeing on the computer screen.
The elections office then reported over the phone a third set of results that showed Walker still as the highest vote-getter, but McDermott second and Owens third. That meant McDermott moved to a four-year term and Owens to a two-year term.
By morning, however, the results changed again after the elections office discovered the glitch with the help of state elections personnel. Shortly before noon on Wednesday results were issued showing that the county board race had come full circle and it was indeed a Democratic sweep.
Walker&squo;s position as the top vote-getter, and probable next chair of the county board, is the only thing that did not change through all the shifting results.
Based on the latest election results, Walker will receive a four-year term, along with McDermott. Gasperson will have a two-year term. &bsp;
Gasperson&squo;s win may not be confirmed until next week after provisional ballots are reviewed and official elections results are issued. Since Gasperson edged Owens by just six votes in the revised results and there are 18 provisional ballots, the results could change again, depending on whether the provisional ballots are certified and what votes they include. The county must check whether voters who provided provisional ballots are properly registered.
If Gasperson&squo;s victory holds up, he and the other two Democratic winners will join fellow Democrats Tommy Melton and Warren Watson on the county board. Melton, the highest vote-getter in 2006, is the board&squo;s current chair.
Meanwhile, Owens&squo; time on the board will end in December when his term ends and Tuesday&squo;s winners are sworn into office.
&dquo;This has been a most unusual election all the way around, so close but yet a 100 miles away,&dquo; said Owens after learning of the revised results on Wednesday morning. &dquo;Nobody likes to lose and I&squo;m disappointed we didn&squo;t win as a team, but I&squo;m still glad we live in America and have an opportunity to vote. We still live in a great county; everybody just needs to work for what&squo;s best for the people.&dquo;
The revised election results also produced different figures for all other races, but did not appear to change the outcome of any races other than the Polk County board.
The glitch appeared to count more than once a precinct or precincts in Polk County that voted in favor of Republicans. As a result, the figures released initially by the elections office Tuesday night provided slightly better results for all Republican candidates compared to the revised results issued Wednesday morning.
For instance, in the presidential race, the Tuesday night results showed John McCain with 6,511 votes and Barack Obama with 4,723 votes. The revised results on Wednesday showed McCain with 5,986 votes and Obama with 4,394. McCain&squo;s victory in Polk County was narrowed by nearly 200 votes.
Similarly, Republican Governor Pat McCrory&squo;s victory in Polk County was narrowed from 294 votes to 152 votes.&bsp; He lost in the statewide race to Democratic candidate Bev Perdue.
Republican Elizabeth Dole&squo;s margin of victory here over Democrat Kay Hagan was reduced from 211 to 80. Hagan won the statewide race.
In the N.C. House District 113 race, Republican David Guice&squo;s margin of victory in Polk County fell from 779 to 619 over Democrat Tom Thomas. Thomas won the district, which includes Transylvania and Polk counties, and much of Henderson County.
The outcome of Polk County&squo;s referendum on a proposed real estate transfer tax also changed slightly based on the revised results, although it sill fell by a wide margin.
Results Tuesday night showed the transfer tax lost by 4,863 votes. Revised results Wednesday showed it fell by 4,503 votes.
Editor&squo;s Note: Look for more coverage on Tuesday&squo;s election results, including votes by precinct, in Friday&squo;s Bulletin.