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Software Glitch to Blame for Delayed Poll Results in Minneapolis Counties

The Scott County auditor attributed the delay to a glitch with new equipment from Dominion Voting, a Canada-based company that sells tabulators.

by Emma Nelson and Natalie Daher / November 10, 2016
Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock

(TNS) -- An county official blamed new technology for publishing results abnormally late — after midnight — in Minnesota's Dakota and Scott counties.

The Scott County auditor attributed the delay to a "software glitch" with new equipment from Dominion Voting, a Canada-based company that sells tabulators. Scott County began using the equipment during local elections last year, and so did Dakota County, according to a release.

Dominion could not be reached immediately for comment.

In Scott County, election officials had tested "batches," or groups of ballots, last week, according to auditor Cindy Geis, but the volume of absentee and in-person ballots from this year's election overwhelmed the software.

"We will be working through this issue with the vendor to get it remedied for any future election," Geis said.

Election officials rely on equipment such as tabulators to process batches, and then judges sort the ballots according to precinct, Geis said. The tabulators lagged in processing the ballots, Geis said, so counting votes "became more of a manual process than we had anticipated," she said.

"We thought we would be walking out the door at 10:20, quarter to 11," Geis said. "In the meantime, we didn't get our results up untill about midnight, even though they were all done."

In Dakota County, human error could have prompted the delay, according to a Wednesday news release. County staff provided "incorrect ballots" to voters at two service centers in West St. Paul and Apple Valley and then received 16 of those incorrect ballots — out of 25,000 total — during early voting. Because of the incorrect ballots, elections officials "had to rerun all 140 precincts," the release said, in accordance with state law.

"It took several hours to balance, draw and physically rerun the precincts," the release said.

Cara Schulz, who was elected to the Burnsville City Council, said she didn't know she'd won until she checked results about 5:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Schulz ran unsuccessfully for City Council in 2014, and recalled that results that year were delayed until about 2:30 a.m.

"Dakota is usually one of the last to come in," Schulz said.

Results for Dakota County began trickling in just after 2 a.m., with the latest precinct results being posted after 4 a.m., according to the Minnesota secretary of state's office.

Mower and Kandiyohi counties also reported similar delays, said Ryan Furlong, spokesman for the Minnesota secretary of state.

Dakota County officials could not be reached immediately for comment.

©2016 the Star Tribune (Minneapolis) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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