DEC Shrugs Over Voting Problems: ‘It Happens’

The software problems that caused long lines in Denver on election day were pretty much to be expected, according to Denver Elections Commission technology chief Anthony Rainey. According to a Rocky Mountain News report today, Rainey brushed off criticism: “All new programs have such glitches, not found until put to use. Microsoft finds them every day, and they’re the biggest software company in the world.”

“Really,” Rainey went on  to say, “I can’t believe you people actually expected us to find software that worked. I mean, they’re computers. Everyone knows computers get screwy all the time, what with all their funny codes and electronic thingamabobs!  Trust me, I’m the DEC’s top tech guy and computers are always crashing on me. And besides, how were we supposed to know that 7,000 election workers were going to log onto the system at the same time? So don’t blame us. No way any untested software system could handle that, O.K.?” Excerpts from the Rocky article:

Tens of thousands of Denver voters stood in lines for hours on Election Day because of glitches in new, barely tested custom software for checking voter registration, according to the election commission’s technology chief, Anthony Rainey.

Rainey called the glitches normal for newly developed programming. “There’s no perfect software out there,” he said.

“It’s brand new software. That’s what the problem was. No one else has used it.”

While Denver election judges had to wait up to 20 minutes for a response from their new program, Larimer County – the first in the nation to begin using vote centers three years ago – got answers from their system in 30 seconds.

And while Denver spent $85,000 on its custom electronic poll book from Sequoia Voting Systems, Larimer County used common, off-the- shelf software that cost virtually nothing.

Larimer used existing county- owned computers and ordinary Microsoft Access software that came with the machines. The county tied them to an Oracle database program it already owned. A county staffer, retired aerospace engineer Thad Pawlikowski, put the system together.

“There’s an unfortunate expectation that the Denver Election Commission is going to have perfect software. Right now, I’m getting hate mail from folks who don’t even know what’s going on,” said Rainey, who said he has more than 20 years’ experience as a network and software engineer.

Rainey said the software, which was based on the city’s main computer network, overloaded when 7,000 city employees logged on when they arrived at work.

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