Software Glitch Disrupts Lawrence County Election

Tanya White
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A glitch with the electronic voting machines in Lawrence County delayed the results of last Thursday’s election by almost a day, said county Election Administrator Tanya White.

Instead of using a computer, county officials had to tally votes by hand, she said.

“Do you know how long it takes to count votes manually?” White asked.

“A really long time.”

White told the Tennessee Star that MicroVote, a company out of Indiana, manufactured the software that suddenly went erratic.

Election officials in 46 of the state’s 95 counties use the same software, said Madison Tracy, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Secretary of State’s Office, in an emailed statement.

MicroVote has yet to explain what happened, White said.

“We had our results off the machines, but we could not print off summary pages that showed all the totals for everyone,” White said.

“That caused us not to be able to release anything. What was released was manually counted off what we had here. That is why all the confusion happened. That is the reason for the delay. That is the reason why what was released at first was incorrect.”

No one at MicroVote returned repeated requests for comment Tuesday.

County officials immediately notified the Tennessee Secretary of State’s Office about the problem, White said.

“MicroVote never came down here the night of the election to help,” White said.

The problems, though, were corrected Friday after MicroVote employees sent someone to attend to the problem, Tracy said.

Election officials compute voting results by taking something called a tally card from machines at all the different voting precincts. White said a tally card is like a receipt you get at a department store.

A card reader then tabulates everything into the county’s election management system, White said.

The process to pick an elections software vendor is a competitive one.

Every year the five members of the county’s election board choose between MicroVote and other vendors. White said they have consistently selected MicroVote every year since 2005. Machines are tested before every election, White said.

As reported, the 16-hour delay in the reporting of the final results for the State House District 70 race caused a bit of disarray. State Rep. Barry “Boss” Doss (R-Leoma) lost that race to newcomer Clay Doggett.

Because of the confusion, voters in Lawrence and Giles counties, with their votes piled together, originally believed Doggett defeated Doss by a margin of 55 percent to 45 percent — a difference of 906 votes.

Late the next day, however, voters learned of a much different result. Doggett still won, but this time by only 305 votes.

“The race never changed,” White said.

“It did narrow the margin, but that was because we could not get our numbers in without manually counting things. The narrowing of the margins was caused by early voting and absentees and just did not get added to the state system the night of the election.”

Voters used six of Lawrence County’s 24 precincts for early voting, White said.

Tracy said what happened last week “is an isolated issue.”

“It is important to note that the integrity of the election remains intact,” Tracy said.

White was asked if Tennesseans have cause to worry about future elections.

She said she preferred not to comment.

“The people from Indiana will do a diagnostic,” White said.

“They will backtrack what happened so they can assure the state of Tennessee that this will not happen again.”

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected].

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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