Election officials explain delay

Friday, March 4, 2016

Carroll County election officials said Thursday that a delay in tabulating votes from Tuesday's preferential primary and non-partisan judicial election resulted from a combination of software issues and conflicting procedural information.

Carroll County's results were announced about 5 p.m. Wednesday, more than 21 hours after the polls closed Tuesday night. Carroll County was the last of Arkansas' 75 counties to submit its results to the state Secretary of State's office, which oversees elections in the state.

"We had a software glitch," said David Hoover, chairman of the Carroll County Election Commission.

Hoover explained that the glitch left election officials unable to retrieve information from the Election Results Management (ERM) system. A representative from Election Systems & Software, which manufactures the ERM, was at the Carroll County Eastern District Courthouse in Berryville on Tuesday night but was also unable to retrieve the information.

In fact, election commissioner Bob Grudek said the ES&S representative may have contributed to the delay.

According to Grudek, the ES&S representative gave instructions to Carroll County election coordinator Sherry Cochrane that conflicted with written instructions she had already received.

Tuesday night marked Cochrane's first election since becoming the county coordinator, and Grudek said she had not received the typical training because of a postponement.

"She had a written instruction sheet that she was trying to follow, but the expert was telling her that those were not the correct instructions," Grudek said. "Well, apparently he was wrong. ... He didn't turn out to be that knowledgeable. What he was telling her caused her to change her procedure, which caused us not to be able to get any data from the machine."

Election officials worked in the courtroom at the Berryville courthouse until about 2:30 a.m. Wednesday before state officials recommended that they stop for the night. Because court hearings were scheduled Wednesday morning, election officials returned in the afternoon -- without the ES&S representative -- and finished tabulating the results.

Grudek said Cochrane was in communication via telephone with a representative from the state in Little Rock on Wednesday afternoon and the process went smoothly over the last few hours.

Grudek said Cochrane was not at fault and he believes that the process will work as intended in future elections.

"I think now she has more confidence," he said. "She was trying to do it correctly; she just was not getting the proper instructions from the person that was sent there to help her."

Hoover said the county has had "several problems" with the ERM over the years and that Carroll County wasn't alone in experiencing issues with the primary results.

"There were five counties that had the same or similar problems with the ERM," he said.

Hoover said the county hopes to get new, more modern election equipment within the next year.

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