Thursday, December 2, 2004

Election surprise actually an error

By Bill Ainsworth, San Diego Union-Tribune, December 2, 2004

An electronic reporting error made by San Diego County resulted in appearing to change the outcome of Proposition 72. Such errors routinely occur and illustrate the value of having election results that are publicly verified. When errors do occur and must be corrected it is crucial that election officials can demonstrate the revised results are accurate. Without a voter verified paper record and routine verification of software vote counts, the public is less likely to accept the validity of revised results.


Excerpts from the San Diego Union-Tribune story:

A reporting error by San Diego County briefly caused a state Web site to incorrectly show that Proposition 72, a health insurance ballot measure defeated on Election Day, had actually been approved by voters.

But a proper transmittal by San Diego County yesterday reaffirmed the Election Day results. The correct figures show that the measure lost by about 200,000 votes statewide.

Proposition 72, which would have required businesses with at least 50 employees to provide health insurance to their workers or pay a fee into a state insurance fund, was the subject of a hard-fought campaign between business and labor.

The measure was narrowly defeated Nov. 2, but the brief posting of contrary results Tuesday night startled both supporters and opponents.

On Tuesday, 17 counties, including San Diego, reported final results to the state both by mail and electronic transmission, a state official said.

In the process of transmitting results electronically, San Diego County ran into a glitch that reported results of ballot propositions from 60A to 72 out of sequence, according to San Diego County Registrar of Voters Sally McPherson.

Consequently, the San Diego County totals for a popular ballot measure, 60A, which directs revenue from the sale of surplus property to pay off state debt bonds, were submitted incorrectly as the results for Proposition 72, she said.

"The wrong numbers went into the wrong spaces," McPherson said.

Those extra votes, when added to the statewide total, were enough to make it seem like Proposition 72 had experienced a stunning come-from-behind victory.

In San Diego County, Proposition 60A won approval from 77 percent of San Diego County voters, while Proposition 72 won approval from 44 percent of county voters.

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