Computer ‘hiccup’ caused late ballots for local voters

November 15, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

King County Elections officials attributed the cause for late ballots to more than 11,000 Eastside voters — including more than 900 in Issaquah and Sammamish — to a computer “hiccup” in the days before the office sent out ballots.

The elections office sent ballots to the impacted voters in late October, about a week after other voters received ballots in the mail. Officials traced the delay to the glitch from late September.

The “hiccup” occurred Sept. 29, as staffers downloaded a database of registered voters into a file to send to K&H Election Services and the computer froze. The staffer rebooted the computer, and did not notice any problems after the download ended.

“For loss of a better word, a hiccup occurred where those 11,000 were skipped over,” Dale Hartman, IT service delivery manager for the elections office, told the King County Council in a meeting Nov. 7, a day before the deadline to return ballots.

Officials checked the information sent to the printer, Everett-based K&H Election Services, to ensure the elections office did not neglect to send information.

“We did not know that there was a portion they had not received, so that was an anomaly that was entirely new to us,” Elections Director Sherril Huff told council members.

The elections office sent out about 1.1 million ballots for the Nov. 8 election in mid-October. Huff said officials also contacted the U.S. Postal Service to determine if the problem originated after the ballots entered the mail.

The elections office received numerous calls from residents about missing ballots and, after correcting the problem, initiated robo-calls to the affected voters.

Huff said officials implemented steps to correct the potential for similar problems in future elections.

Councilwoman Kathy Lambert, Issaquah’s representative, raised concerns about the delay. So, too, did Councilwoman Jane Hague, another Eastside member.

“I was very concerned in the apparent absence of a redundancy,” Hague said. “We were waiting for voters to tell us that they hadn’t received their ballot, and I think that the accuracy and the validity of the system needs to be within Elections.”

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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