Elections boss hopes software glitches are resolved

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BROOKSVILLE — Elections Supervisor Shirley Anderson, who took some heat for delayed precinct tabulations during the August primary, said she is hoping for quicker election results to be disseminated to the public Nov. 4.

Anderson said she’s been working with her software vendor, Tallahassee-based VR Systems Inc., to better ensure against software glitches. But to play it safe, she will post results on Facebook and Twitter.

The Aug. 26 primary proved to be a long night for the public, candidates and media as precinct results froze shortly after polls closed. Realizing the website was not posting the tabulations, Anderson resorted to social media sites.

Anderson said other counties had similar software problems Her office was posting the numbers as they came in that night but, for whatever reason, the numbers were not showing up on her website.

Anderson said her staff’s initial report to the state was uploaded at 7:17 p.m., shortly after polls closed. The website crashed before it even posted results, she said.

Anderson was elected in 2012 and the August primary was her first election as supervisor. During the run-up to that primary, she had vowed to improve efficiency and post ballot outcomes faster than her predecessor..

But final results didn’t come in until late in the evening, leaving candidates and residents hanging. She sent an email the day after to all candidates, apologizing for the slow results.

Anderson said she was a victim of technology but offered no excuses, saying at the time “the buck stops here.”

“Getting the election results out to the public is very important,” Anderson said Friday. “We have worked with our website vendor since the primary to develop multiple layers of contingency plans. We have also conducted numerous tests and simulations on our website to further ensure accuracy and performance.”

Anderson said she is more confident that results will be released sooner and without problems but cautioned there are never any guarantees.

“We’re expecting the unexpected,” she said. “I have no control over what will happen on Election Day.”

Jane Watson, president of VR Systems, confirmed her company has analyzed the conditions that caused the August delay in initial upload of results and is ready for Tuesday’s election, The company even conducted mock upload processes to simulate the heavier traffic for a general election.

“We have seen no additional process or data conditions that would repeat what happened on Aug. 26,” Watson said.

Hernando County has used VR Systems since 2003. Watson said her staff has coordinated with Anderson and her staff to make sure the election-night support team is “well-positioned to provide technical assistance if the need arises.”

For election night results, people can visit www.hernandovotes .com

Meanwhile, there was a brisk turnout for early voting, which ended yesterday.

At press time Friday, 21,110 people had mailed in ballots and 7,717 had voted early, according to the supervisor of elections.

There was also a steady stream of early voters at the Supervisor of Elections Forest Oaks branch last week.

The area around the office was dotted with candidate signs and supporters holding signs.

This year, there were several ballot items that voters say compelled them to get out and vote. Paul and Jane Bowman cited the governor’s race, the medical marijuana referendum and the Penny for Projects sales tax initiative.

Paul Bowman said he was for the marijuana issue but against the penny tax.

“The county doesn’t need another penny,” he said. “They can’t wisely spend the money that they have now.”

Gary Lyons said he likes to early vote because it is more convenient and fits his schedule.

He also cited the sales tax referendum as a hot-button issue.

When asked which way he was going to vote on the tax, Lyons said he had not made up his mind yet. He will know for sure once he gets inside and votes, he said.

County Commissioner Dave Russell thanked Anderson for making two libraries early voting sites because it allows people to visit the sites and check out books at the same time.

“The turnout has just been awesome and people are just excited,” Russell told his colleagues at last week’s commission meeting.