JEROME – After voting on Tuesday, the county election department found a “data sorting error” that led to a turnaround in the outcome of a legislative run.
Running for seat B in Idaho’s 26 Legislative District, which includes In Blaine, Jerome, and Lincoln counties, Republican Jack Nelson is now ahead of Democrat Karma Metzler Fitzgerald with 83 votes.
Prior to the discovery of the error, Fitzgerald held a 383-vote lead over Nelsen.
The Jerome County Chancellor’s Electoral Department identified a discrepancy between the numbers sent to the Idaho Secretary of State’s office Tuesday evening and the numbers reported on the Secretary of State’s webpage the next morning, said Election Director Cy Lootens al Times-News.
The electoral department sent the data from its counting machine to the office of the Secretariat of State, to be combined into a spreadsheet with the results of the other two counties.
“For whatever reason,” Lootens said, “a small portion of our cards weren’t flagged with that spreadsheet.”
The numbers sent to the secretary of state were correct, but some of the cards were not reported by the system.
“At the end of the night, when we thought we were done, we went home,” Lootens said. “We went back the next day and double-checked all the numbers and noticed the discrepancy.
“That was when I called the Secretary of State’s office.”
Jerome County and the Office of the Secretary of State worked until Wednesday night to identify the cause of the discrepancy.
In a statement posted online Thursday morning, Jerome County said the discrepancy was the result of a data sorting error.
“The ultimate cause of the problem was determined by a missing ‘type of vote’ configuration in the translation process between the tabulated results and the publication of those results on the state election night portal,” the county said in the statement. “The absence of the type of vote in this internal process meant that part of the ballot papers were not attributed to the totals published online.”
Fitzgerald said she would trust the trial and, if the official results were to end up being the 83 votes shown, it would require a recount as a procedure.
“Obviously I’m devastated,” Fitzgerald said. “I would have been very proud to represent this district and will continue to work hard for the community anyway.”
When asked about the reversal of the results, Nelsen said he had faith in the process.
“I can’t wait for this to be corrected,” Nelsen said, “but until things are official, it’s not official.”