Technical, human errors delay official election results

Shelby County was delayed for two days in releasing complete election results because of technical and human errors with absentee ballots.

On election night, the number of absentee affidavits listed on the report from the absentee tracking system didn’t match the number of ballots counted. When the first count was completed, the results were off by more than 100. After the second count, also conducted on election night, the total was off by 86.

Linda Phillips, administrator of elections for the Shelby County Election Commission, explained: Paper absentee ballots are fed through a reader in batches of 50, called “decks.” The tally for two decks failed to upload into the computer system. The second issue was that when the last 14 absentee affidavits were received, the system was not updated, so the total did not include those.

“If the count had been off by an even 100, the problem would have been obvious to me,” Phillips said. “But, because the number of affidavits was less than the number listed on the report of the ballots by 84, it required a hand count of all affidavits.”

The laborious process was slow. About 2:30 a.m. Nov. 9, the election board, in consultation with the Coordinator of Elections, made the decision to postpone the completion of the count. The Absentee Counting Board was sent home to get some rest and returned Wednesday afternoon. On Wednesday, the affidavits were compared to the names on the report. When 14 extra affidavits were discovered, it became apparent that the technical mistake was coupled with a human error.

“It’s so unfortunate that this happened,” Phillips said. “We know voters were eager to receive the completed numbers, but we could not, in good conscience, release figures that were not absolutely accurate.”

The figures mentioned did not yet include provisional ballots, which are paper ballots. As of Nov. 14, those were still being counted.