Thursday, March 09, 2006

Tarrant County, TX has a computer glitch in Primaries

Posted on Thu, Mar. 09, 2006
Vote spike blamed on program snafu

An undetected computer glitch in Tarrant County led to inflated election returns in Tuesday's primaries but did not alter the outcome of any local race, elections and county officials said Wednesday.

The error caused Tarrant County to report as many as 100,000 votes in both primaries that never were cast, dropping the local turnout from a possible record high of about 158,103 voters to about 58,000.

Because the errors added votes equally for each candidate, the glitch did not change the outcome of Tarrant County races but narrowed the margin of victory in some statewide races. In the close Republican primary race for Texas Supreme Court, for example, incumbent Don Willett edged past former Justice Steve Smith by only about 1 percentage point with the corrected vote tallies.

Questions about possible problems were raised by election staff late Tuesday night, as it became apparent to some that the county would far exceed the 76,000 votes cast in the 2002 primary elections.

"We didn't think there was a problem," Hamilton said. "We should have stopped right then.

"But we didn't question it at that time."

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County officials said the only race potentially affected was the close contest between GOP incumbent Don Willett and challenger Steve Smith for the Texas Supreme Court Place 2 seat. It's not clear yet whether the new numbers would alter the outcome of that race.

David Rogers, campaign manager for Mr. Smith, said his candidate is considering asking the secretary of state for a recount. Mr. Smith originally lost by 21,000 votes, but the margin is now fewer than 5,000.

"That is less than 1 percent," Mr. Rogers said. "We are looking at the statute tonight, and we'll probably make a decision [about a recount] in the next 24 hours."


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