Two flash drives containing Nov. 2 election results were still in judge-of-election delivery bags and never added to the vote tally on election night, officials said Friday.
County Election Board Chairwoman Denise Williams announced the discovery during Friday’s procedure called to break ties in numerous races.
In total, the flash drives contained 255 votes from a scanner/tabulator in Kingston Township District 3 and in Dorrance Township.
The Kingston Township District 3 drive had 162 votes, while the total was 93 in Dorrance Township.
Results from these votes were incorporated into an updated unofficial tally posted Friday evening at luzernecounty.org.
Williams said the election bureau realized the “numbers were not squaring” in both municipalities during a post-election reconciliation comparing the number of voters that signed in on electronic poll books to the number of ballots recorded on tabulator tapes from scanners used at the polling place.
The volunteer citizen election board, which must certify the election results, was informed of the reconciliation issue Thursday, Williams said.
With the current system, voters must make their selections on electronic ballot marking devices at the polls and then print out the ballot. After reviewing the printout and determining all selections are the ones they picked, voters must then feed them into the scanner/tabulator to cast their vote.
The scanned paper ballots drop into a secure bin so they can be retained for future audits or recounts.
The results of ballots from each scanner/tabulator are stored on flash drives known as “cards” that are delivered with other polling place materials to the county’s Penn Place building in downtown Wilkes-Barre after the polls close at 8 p.m.
County workers then load data from the flash drives into the county’s central vote tally system.
When the reconciliation issue arose, the county realized two flash drives were never entered into the results, she said.
Williams said she asked if anyone checked the election night delivery bags that are kept at Penn Place, and both flash drives were still in those bags.
Board members quickly reviewed the flash drive results and determined they changed vote tallies but not the winners in municipal races in the two municipalities, Williams said.
Still, she stressed the board is taking the taking the matter seriously and will require protocols so it does not occur again.
While two people must be involved in removing the contents of each delivery bag on election night, she said a master checklist is needed at both the content removal stations and election bureau central tallying area to log receipt of each flash drive to detect any not received.
Board members also will review the type of delivery bags used to ensure the flash drives are clearly visible at content removal, she said.
Acting County Manager Romilda Crocamo said the county had been advised to perform the reconciliation sooner, and that will be a change implemented for future elections in new protocols the administration will be presenting.
Also, while a flash drive tracking list was added for the Nov. 2 election, it will be expanded to require more detail in future elections, she said.
Crocamo emphasized the issue was detected before the results were certified.
“That’s the purpose of the reconciliation. That’s why these are still unofficial results,” Crocamo said.
County Information Technology Director Mauro DiMauro also noted two other options would be available if a flash drive is lost or not delivered by the judge of elections. Each scanner/tabulator has a second flash drive that remains in the machine as a back-up. And in the event both flash drives somehow disappeared, the paper ballots could be retrieved from secure storage, he said.
More than 200 scanners/tabulators assigned to polling places because some of the 186 precincts have more than one, he said. However, sometimes no flash drive is returned for the second one because the precinct did not have to activate it based on turnout, he said.
County Councilman Walter Griffith, who was at Penn Place observing when Williams made the announcement, said he will be advocating procedures to ensure no flash drives are missed early in the tally.