Election officials: Human error caused numbers fluctuation

Posted: Thursday, August 26, 2004

ANCHORAGE - Candidates, news organizations and political junkies who followed Alaska's primary election returns on the Internet were puzzled when they saw the numbers rise and fall for 44 legislative hopefuls at various times Tuesday night.

In the live results posted on the Internet by the state Division of Elections, candidates in state legislative races appeared to lose between two and 116 votes at a time before the numbers went back up again.

Election officials said the fluctuations were a Web site glitch due to human error, and the actual returns were never affected.

"We were tracking it on the Division of Elections Web site, and we definitely noticed it," said state House candidate Gabrielle LeDoux of Kodiak. "My numbers would go up and then they'd go down sometimes.

"I never tried to get an explanation as long as we were ahead."

LeDoux, the mayor of the Kodiak Island Borough, defeated appointed incumbent Dan Ogg and challenger Lorne "Lonnie" White to win the Republican primary for District 36. She faces no opposition in the November general election.

Elections Director Laura Glaiser said the problem stemmed from workers uploading results to the Internet. Those workers forgot to include absentee votes in the data before putting it on the Web site.

The division's computer system requires the absentee votes be manually selected for inclusion in the overall results posted on the Internet. But at some point that selection was overlooked, officials said.

When the absentee votes were omitted, the numbers that appeared on the real-time Internet updates changed.

Even if the actual counts had been affected, none of the fluctuations was large enough to change the outcome of any race.

Election Administrative Supervisor Thomas Godkin said Wednesday he had received no complaints about the fluctuating numbers, and officials hoped to avoid a repeat of the problem in November's general election.

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