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Eye On Boise

Why it took all night…

The one county whose election results took the longest to determine - the same county where a prominent longtime state senator was defeated by his GOP primary challenger on Tuesday - had an 11 p.m. machine malfunction that led to a technician driving from Kootenai County to Moscow to try to fix the problem without success, followed by carting the remaining Latah County ballots off to another county for counting, then returning them to merge the results. The whole thing didn't wrap up 'til 6:35 a.m. on Wednesday, according to the Moscow-Pullman Daily News. The ballot-counting machine was only three years old; click below to read more.

Faulty machine holds up total vote count

By Christina Lords
Moscow-Pullman Daily News, Moscow, Idaho

May 27--At approximately 11 p.m. in the cramped basement of the Latah County Courthouse, with eight precincts' votes left to be counted, a faulty circuit board on the county's M650 optical scan reader went out -- and took the primary elections with it.

Latah County Clerk Susan Petersen said after the machine had ceased functioning, an Election Systems and Software tech was on hand to address the issue.

''She had been here from Nebraska," she said. "When the machine stopped taking the ballots, she looked at it, I looked at it. We performed all the steps that we had to address the problem, and we worked on it for quite a while. Nothing worked."

Petersen then called an information technologist from Kootenai County, who drove to Moscow to assess the problems.

After an hour of working on the machine, he said the ballots couldn't be counted until the part was fixed.

At about 2 a.m. Wednesday, the technician determined the M650 could no longer bring the ballot across the machine, so it couldn't interpret the ovals voters had filled in.

Petersen placed a call to Nez Perce County Clerk Patty Weeks to see if the ballots could be counted there.

Petersen and eight other members of the examination board and Latah County Prosecutor Bill Thompson drove down to Lewiston to process the remaining eight precincts' votes.

By 4:30 a.m., the results were driven back to Moscow and had to be merged with the already-counted votes.

A final cumulative total was put together by 6:35 a.m.

''I felt bad for the candidates because I'm sure they would have liked to known, but there was nothing really else I could have done," Petersen said.

There have been some problems in the past, she said, but none that have ever completely stopped the counting process.

''I do intend to do some follow up with ES&S because we've only had the machine three other elections, so it should have worked just fine," Petersen said. "I have an obligation to the voters, too, and I want to make sure that they're taken care of."

Each of the 33 Latah County precincts' ballots were test-run multiple times on the machine prior to the primary, she said.


To see more of the Moscow-Pullman Daily News or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to

(c) 2010, Moscow-Pullman Daily News, Moscow, Idaho

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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