Ghosts in the machine

May. 10, 2014 @ 10:16 AM

This editorial appeared in the News & Record, Greensboro (MCT).

With the polls closed and several high-profile verdicts pending in Tuesday's primary, State Board of Elections computers used an old cinematic device to build suspense: slow motion.

Watching the returns come in was like a watching the hour hand move on a clock, only not quite as fast. State officials say a programming error had stalled the pace to a crawl. At one point, late in the night, when the numbers finally sped up to a trickle on the state elections website, the critical tally of how many precincts had reported suddenly vanished. Sheer torture.

This latest state IT SNAFU adds to a growing list:

-- NC FAST software glitches delayed food stamps benefits.

-- NCTracks software glitches stalled Medicaid reimbursements to health care providers.

-- N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles computers lost track of thousands of vehicle inspection reports.

Now this. "We regret that initial display errors caused frustration for our voters and our county boards of elections," said State Board of Elections Executive Director Kim Westbrook Strach in an email sent after midnight Wednesday. "The State Board takes seriously its responsibility to report accurate and timely results."

The elections board had moved the management of its website in-house from an outside vendor and picked Tuesday to try the new system for the first time. Very bad idea and, we hope, a lesson learned. We vote for a dry run next time.