Vendor cited for change in race results

Published 10:31 am Friday, April 1, 2016

The error that reversed the election results in one of the Lawrence County Commission races was apparently made by the vendor.

“The vendor has acknowledged their error and refunded all on-site support money,” Mark McCown, Lawrence County Board of Elections member, said.

That adds up to $4,000 from Elections Systems and Software, the vendor that received $171,761.85 from the county to run elections in 2015.

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On March 15 election night, former Ohio University Southern professor Dave Lucas, seeking to unseat commissioner Bill Pratt, beat him out of the GOP nomination by just 15 votes. Since that margin was within one-half of one percent, it appeared there would be an automatic recount.

However, on Tuesday the board of elections conducted its official canvas, changing those results with Pratt beating out Lucas by 154 votes.

Pratt had 5,377 or 50.73 percent of the vote to Lucas at 5,223 or 49.27 percent.

The reason, the board determined, was the individual feeding in the precinct data cards at the board office doubled clicked for eight precincts. Those precincts were at Hanging Rock, Washington Township, Symmes Township and five at the Ironton VFW 8850.

Since the tech support employee was in “add-on” mode instead of “replace,” results in those precincts were doubled.

That individual was an employee of ES&S that provides tech support to the board, McCown said.

“Obviously (ES&S) are not happy with what happened,” McCown said. “It is human error. This guy is not a rookie.”

During the official canvas another ES&S employee discovered what had happened.

“He helped identify the error,” McCown said.

The current election system is between 10 and 12 years old and does not have checks to question the operator’s actions, he said.

“There are no such prompts, but there are on the current one,” McCown said.

Upgrading the software would not be difficult, but it wouldn’t be compatible with the aging hardware.

To replace that would cost the county approximately $280,000, the board member said.

The goal on election night, McCown said, is to get results out as quickly as possible.

“On election night it is impossible to go through the layers of verification,” he said. “That is what the official canvas is for.”

There are three options to prevent this from happening again, McCown said.

First would be to make sure the operator is in the right mode.

“The second option would be, on election night, rather than trying to get unofficial results out as quickly as possible, we can slow down the process and release them the next day after we have cross-checked them,” he said.

However, that would be impractical since the secretary of state wants the result reported as soon as possible.

The third would be purchasing new equipment at the $280,000 price tag, McCown said.

“We don’t want to disparage (the company),” he said. “Every single person who has ever owned a computer has done this and the process worked to correct it. But it did change the confidence of the electorate and we acknowledge it.”

A call made to a specialist at ES&S was not returned by press time.