Barry Co. hand-counts votes after electronic hiccup

Barry County

HASTINGS, Mich. (WOOD) — For Barry County Clerk Pam Palmer, Election Day and the day after have run together. 

She hasn’t slept since Tuesday morning. 

“I’m thinking, this is gonna be a really late night,” Palmer recalled thinking around midnight Wednesday.

That was when the trouble began. Township clerks had started bringing cards that hold election data to Hastings to be entered into the computer and processed. 

“The first few came in and the results were fine. It was uploading perfectly. And then it got to where some would upload, and some would not,” Palmer said.

She called the programmer to troubleshoot, but it didn’t help. So, she and her colleagues had to tally up the votes the long way.

“I would say two-thirds of my precincts had to be manually uploaded,” Palmer said.

That meant individually counting thousands of votes, something that took all night and into the next day.

Earlier Wednesday, results were posted for only 16 of 25 precincts, leaving many races unresolved the afternoon after the polls closed.

“It’s not the sleep (that I’m worried about),” Palmer said. “I like to be efficient and I like to get these results out to the public as fast as possible. That’s my job.”

The ballot machines they use, like many in the state, are new and supposed to make data collection faster. They can transmit information directly to the county clerk.

But in a rural area like Barry County, Palmer said some areas don’t have good internet service, so they have to rely on the cards.

“Everything tested fine. I was taken by surprise and so was my programmer,” she said.

Wednesday afternoon, Palmer said her team was working to get the full unofficial results posted online, as the Board of Canvassers spent the afternoon verifying the results.

Palmer said they’re not exactly sure yet what happened, but is determined to get to the bottom of it so it doesn’t happen again.

“I’m interested in getting with my programmer and finding out what went wrong,” she said.

Barry County wasn’t the only county in West Michigan to have problems gathering or posting election results.

Ottawa County had issues with the website it uses to post results, and Newaygo County had trouble with the election software it uses. Both issues have since been resolved.

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