A technology glitch that occurred during Tuesday night's Democratic runoff election might have delayed results for a few hours but it also provided a valuable dress rehearsal for what DeSoto County Election Commission Chairman Danny Klein calls the "Super Bowl of Elections" that occurs next year leading up to the 2020 U.S. presidential election.
Off-year elections will involve candidates running for supervisors, sheriff and other country-wide posts.
Ostensibly, the DS 200 next generation tabulators/scanners were designed to provide instantaneous transmission of election information from the county's 41 precincts to the election officials at the DeSoto County Courthouse.
For more than 100 years, election results have been transported from precincts to the courthouse via election workers and sheriff's deputies.
Yet, on Tuesday night, election officials were hoping to implement a new system that would literally shave hours off tabulation and reporting time.
It seems a glitch in the system involving a password failed to allow precinct managers at the polls to transmit election information to the courthouse.
"The new system has modems and these modems dial into the main server," Klein explained. "It's a self-contained system. It uses a phone system to dial straight in to the server. We don't go online, so we feel like it's very safe."
Klein said, in theory, election results should have been tabulated and reported back to election officials within 30 minutes. Instead the process took more than three hours.
"For some reason, the server didn't like the password," Klein said. "The vendor is trying to find out what went wrong."
Human error was also to blame, according to Klein.
At the Fairhaven Precinct, an election manager left the zip drive containing election tabulation in the machine and that individual had to backtrack and drive back to the precinct to retrieve it.
Boxes in Horn Lake, Hernando, and the Miller precinct, along with Fairhaven, were among the last to arrive and be fed into the machine at the courthouse, which spits out results to waiting officials and a reporter.
"If everything would have gone right, all of the numbers would have been in by 7:30 p.m.," Klein said.
The runoff election did have enough poll workers this go around, unlike the June 5 primary in which there were too few Democratic poll workers to staff the precincts, according to election officials.
Klein said any election is always a challenge, especially in a growing county like DeSoto, which now has 41 precincts, the largest in its history.
Klein said the 50 DS 200 tabulation/scanners — at a cost of approximately $6,000 a piece — were purchased at a cost of $350,000, in addition to more than $10,000 spent on software.
Klein said the $350,000 consists of mostly state funds administered through the Mississippi Secretary of State's Office.
Robert Lee Long is Community Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252