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Cause of Colorado's Election Delays Explained

Counting of all mail in-ballots was expected to be completed at about 10:30 p.m. on Election Day, but a computer server hit its capacity early that day.

(TNS) -- Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams said Thursday that there were limitations to an election system used in Pueblo County Tuesday that officials were not aware of at the time they purchased the equipment.

Counting of all mail in-ballots was expected to be completed at about 10:30 p.m. on Election Day, but a computer server hit its capacity early that day, forcing Pueblo County Clerk and Recorder Gilbert “Bo” Ortiz to call the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office, which provided a larger server.

During a Thursday press conference in Colorado Springs, Williams repeated what Ortiz has been saying since the problem began. He told reporters that the size of Pueblo County’s fourpage ballot caused large scan files to clog the server.

Williams said the server software (Microsoft SQL Express) was insufficient to handle the size. “The new (Pueblo County) system uses a scan of the entire ballot so judges quickly can adjudicate (ballots in) any race that might be in question,” Williams said.

“The vendor has provided a new server and a back-up server that is a higher-capacity server and addresses the needs that Pueblo has,” Williams said. He said the new servers were provided at no additional cost to Pueblo County.

“The upgraded server uses SQL as opposed to SQL Express,” Williams said.

Complications in transferring data to the new server put Ortiz’s office back about eight hours Tuesday, and his staff and elections judges have been working ballots since the system was back up and running at 11:20 p.m. later that night.

Ortiz said workers have had to make up those eight hours.

“When the server was back up, we went until 3 o’clock in the morning. Unfortunately, computers don’t get tired, but judges do,” Ortiz said.

Ortiz said he had to send the judges home Wednesday to recharge so fatigue wouldn’t cause inaccuracies.

Williams said his office had to assure that every bit of data was correctly transferred to the new machine.

“Unfortunately, that took longer than the vendor had told us it was going to take because it is not a process that they have had to do before,” Williams said.

Williams said there were a series of layers of security that had to be gone through on a stepby- step basis, which took longer than anyone had anticipated.

Political candidates, the media and concerned citizens continued to play the waiting game Thursday, all eager to see more complete results in this year’s election.

Results for Pueblo County’s election were still being processed.

“We know that people are interested in what’s going on. I have been a candidate before. I know very well how interested people are in getting quick results. But there is no circumstance in which speed trumps accuracy. Accuracy must be the paramount objective throughout the process,” Williams said.

Williams said Pueblo County now has a larger server much like the ones in larger Colorado counties.

“Pueblo bought an express server because they were not aware of the limitations in size caused by a four-page, 18-inch ballot,” Williams said.

“When you scan that in, that obviously takes a lot of space.”

Williams said he and Ortiz regret the delay and understand the frustration.

“It’s frustrating for the press. It’s frustrating for the candidates. Surely for the public,” Ortiz said.

“I can tell you that I don’t think anybody was more frustrated on Election Day than I was.”

Ortiz said his office will learn from this situation and better plan in future elections if a server goes down.

“Over 80,000 people voted in Pueblo County. That’s a record for us,” Ortiz said.

Colorado had a record- high turnout this year with 2,852,268 ballots returned.

“We had twice as many people vote in this election as the last one,” Williams said.

Ortiz said 2,000 mail-in ballots and 4,000 in-person ballots were left to process Thursday.

“This (situation) did not affect or disenfranchise any voters in Pueblo County,” Ortiz said. 

©2016 The Pueblo Chieftain (Pueblo, Colo.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.