Monday, September 27, 2004

Hillsborough, FL: Slow count blamed on computer indexing

Machine vendor Sequoia Voting Systems diagnoses what delayed the ballot tabulation.

By Jeff Testerman, St. Petersburg Times, September 4, 2004


TAMPA - Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections Buddy Johnson said Friday he'd slept only about 12 hours since election night, while he fretted over the cause of a computer malfunction responsible for a dramatic slowdown in vote tabulation.

Finally, two full days after the election, the problem had been diagnosed, not by Johnson's staff but by Sequoia Voting Systems, the Oakland, Calif., company which sold the county a $12-million package of touch-screen voting machines.

The failure of a software indexing system that sorted the votes by each race caused the problem. The malfunction caused Johnson's computer server to repeatedly search its entire data base before recording any single vote, Sequoia said, a process that slowed the election tabulation to one-fifteenth the normal speed.


Johnson said he made a "management decision" not to tinker with the Sequoia equipment on election night, letting the computers work at a snail's pace to preserve the accuracy of the tabulation.

Then, he sought Sequoia's help. Its technicians discovered the indexing problem and told Johnson's staff how to remedy it if it ever crops up again. No one seems sure why it happened in the first place.

"We haven't seen this in the past," Sequoia director of public affairs Alfie Charles said Friday.

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