County’s early voting was fine; delays in Election Night reporting

Cattaraugus County Republican Election Commissioner Cortney Spittler (left) and Democratic Commissioner Kevin Burleson look over election data Thursday at the Board of Elections. Smaller screen was the iPad voters used to sign in at the polls for the first time this year.

LITTLE VALLEY — If you voted Tuesday in one of Cattaraugus County’s 55 election districts — or during early voting — you signed in on a digital screen instead of an election book.

As Cattaraugus County’s two election inspectors assessed the election, they feel the new technology worked well. Both Republican Election Commissioner Cortney Spittler and her Democratic counterpart Kevin Burleson feel it was the right decision to employ the same technology used during nine days of early voting on Election Day.

“Now we’ll know what we’re doing next year when it’s a presidential year and there will be more voters,” Burleson said Thursday at the Board of Elections offices.

Replacing the sign-in book with a computer at each polling place made sense, Spittler said. Using tracking software, the average check-in time was 42 seconds, she said.

Some districts with more than 1,000 registered voters, including several in Olean, had two iPads for faster sign-in, Burleson pointed out. Some districts had a spare iPad in case one failed.

“We were able to monitor 52 of 55 locations with cellular service,” Burleson said.

The software displayed information like when people voted. The peak time is 5-7 p.m. Otherwise, there is a steady climb in voters until noon, when it levels off. It peaks again around 3 p.m. when school lets out and then again from 5-7 p.m. Then it drops off quickly.

“Everything worked well in the early voting,” Spittler said. A backup printer was used on the last day of early voting at the Olean site at Jamestown Community College. “We didn’t have any issues.”

An election night reporting issue left some people wondering whether the reporting system connected to the Board of Elections website was working properly.

It turns out it was working but indicated to users that zero of the 55 districts had reported.

Only early voting results that were posted about 9:25 p.m. were showing up on some contests.

“All the results were coming through,” Spittler said. The website showed zero of 55 districts reporting, however.

The State Board of Elections spotted Cattaraugus County was slow in reporting on Election Night and called the commissioners to see if there was a problem.

As it turns out, the delay in reporting the number of election districts reporting results was linked to the early voting that ended the Sunday before Election Day.

A state Board of Elections information technology technician traced the problem to failure to download a data card from one of the machines that was not used, Burleson explained.

There were two election reporting machines at both early voting sites in Olean and Little Valley. At one site, both machines were used, but only one at the other. The card from the unused machine was not read. The software program was waiting for that card.

Board of Elections staff were prepared for write-in campaigns in town races in Dayton and Farmersville. That delayed election packets getting to Little Valley for downloading and posting on the website because each write-in had to be recorded after the polls closed.

There were 170 write-ins in Dayton and another 100 in Farmersville. The election commissioners redirected sheriff’s deputies who were picking up the election packets to minimize the wait.

“A lot of counties had little delays in their reporting,” Spittler said. “The state Board of Elections helped us with our issue.”

Burleson said he’s glad Cattaraugus County went all-in on the electronic sign-in after the early voting. “This way we can work out the bugs before next year’s presidential election.”

(Contact reporter Rick Miller at rmiller@oleantimesherald.com. Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)