State Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax said he is embarrassed by a software glitch that delayed posting results of Tuesday's elections on the agency's website for about two hours.
The numbers were correct, but a problem occurred in the software when the early and absentee voting numbers were transferred to the website, he said Wednesday.
“We're going to get to the bottom of this,” Ziriax said. “I'm unhappy, and I'm embarrassed by it.”
It's at least the second glitch in four elections for the software for the new $16.7 million system, which went online earlier this year with election officials promising faster election results and more data.
Ziriax said election officials noticed the problem almost immediately and decided to postpone adding updated election figures until the software problem was found. Although the numbers were correct, the software problem erroneously reported in some races that all the precincts had been reported.
“This is the displaying of results on a website,” he said. “It is not the tabulation of results. It is not the counting of ballots.”
Ziriax said he is talking with the software firm, SOE, which is a subcontractor of Hart InterCivic, the company that sold the devices to Oklahoma.
“We need to find out why it happened, and then we'll take steps to make sure it doesn't happen again,” he said.
Ziriax said he doesn't know if switching the software firm is a possibility. It's the second problem with the software since the new devices started being used in March. It didn't show all the precincts reporting during the presidential preferential primary and a special election.
Numbers resumed being updated on the Election Board's website shortly after 9 p.m. Tuesday, or two hours after the polls closed.
The way the system is set up, Oklahoma and Tulsa counties have separate precincts for their absentee and early voting ballots. The other 75 counties report the absentee and early votes along with the Election Day votes for the precincts where the votes are from, Ziriax said.
About 19.6 percent, or 167,419, of the state's 851,759 registered Republicans voted in Tuesday's primary elections. An exact count of how many Democrats voted Tuesday is hard to determine because there was no statewide Democratic contest on the ballot.
Four years ago, 17.2 percent of registered Republicans and 18.6 percent of registered Democrats voted.
In 2010, with heated gubernatorial contests involving both Democrats and Republicans, about 30 percent of registered Republicans voted in the primary elections. About 26 percent of registered Democrats voted.
Ziriax said he hopes the software problem will be taken care of by the Aug. 28 runoff primary elections so that everything runs smoothly for the Nov. 6 general election. A larger turnout is expected in the general election because presidential races draw much more interest.
Keith Gaddie, a University of Oklahoma political science professor, said the glitches in the new system are noticeable because the previous system seemed to have worked flawlessly for the past 20 years.
“The good news is they've got a runoff to get it worked out before we go to the general,” he said. “If you're going to have a problem, don't you think that it's more important to have a problem in the transmission of information up to the state Election Board than have a problem with the machines getting the count right? If we were going to pick an error, this is the one we want.”
State and local officials added new procedures for Tuesday's elections after problems developed in an April 3 special election for a House of Representatives seat in Tulsa.
On election night, Democrat Dan Arthrell was declared the unofficial winner of the House District 71 seat by three votes, but a recount showed Republican Katie Henke won by one vote. Hours after the recount ended, Tulsa County election officials discovered two unsecured ballots for Arthrell in one of the devices; eventually the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled it would be impossible to determine who won the election and invalidated the vote.
As a result, Tulsa County was one of the last counties to report results Tuesday night, perhaps out of an abundance of caution, Tulsa County Election Board Secretary Patty Bryant said.
“We're very pleased with the results getting delivered faster and that they are accurate,” Bryant said. “We are all about accuracy. Especially, in Tulsa County, having just gone through the recount.”
Bryant said that caution likely contributed to the lateness of their results.
She said other hiccups such as workers in two precincts not returning the voting machines to the election headquarters and the two-hour software glitch really didn't slow the process too much.
“We had two precincts that just did not return their machines to us,” Bryant said. “That's not terrible because with this system, with this voting system, we've got a backup. We just run the paper ballots through the scanner and that really didn't slow us down.”
Doug Sanderson, Oklahoma County's election board secretary, said he likes that the new system has a fail-proof backup of the paper ballots — a bar code on each ballot. The machines scan each document into a digital storage device.
“It's going great so far. It's a learning curve on any new system. I think we're adapting well,” Sanderson said. “The new voting system is just an updated version of the old, just newer technology.”
The new election system uses paper ballots that are similar to the old paper ballots. Instead of connecting a broken line next to a candidate's name, voters fill in an empty box.
The ballots are then scanned with new machines that cost $2,800 each. The machines and election software system were bought with $16.7 million in federal funds.
Once the ballots are scanned, the machine drops them in a secure ballot box and tallies the results onto a thumb drive, with the data uploaded into state computers and sent to the state Election Board's website.