When in doubt, blame the software.
November 6, 2002 1:47 PM   Subscribe

When in doubt, blame the software. Who is the governor of Alabama? Both incumbent candidate Don Siegelmand and Republican opponent Bob Riley have claimed victories. The answer lies in the hands of Baldwin County officials, who claim a software glitch "miscounted" almost 7,000 votes. [more inside]
posted by somethingotherthan (18 comments total)
wow. Right now I'm thinking of all the coders in Alabama telling the network guys to put more memory in the system.
posted by LouieLoco at 1:54 PM on November 6, 2002

First of all, excuse the spelling error: Siegleman*

The voting machines for all 67 counties were calibrated and tallied in the same place, so I find it hard to believe this software glitch happened in only one machine.

Here are some Alabamian's thoughts. Baldwin County is also Bob Riley's native county, and is located in the southern part of the state. Some people belive the counting was influenced by previous counties' returns, as at one point Siegleman was only leading by 8 votes.
posted by somethingotherthan at 1:55 PM on November 6, 2002

How much ya wanna bet the "software" was an Excel spreadsheet, and the "glitch" was a misapplied SUM range that included the next cell up ... which happened to be a 7,000 total result of a SUM range itself? That's what this sounds like to me, anyway.

(And I'm sure the coders are saying that, and the network guys are laughing at them.)

And it seems to be Siegelman.
posted by dhartung at 2:01 PM on November 6, 2002

Compare the reported result (31,052 + 19,070 + 937 = 51,059) with reported results in the US Senate race for the same county (34,327 + 9,525 + 848 = 44,700) and the apparent certified result (31,052 + 12,736 + 937 = 44,725), and you can see either that there was an obvious math error in the gubernatorial results, or a whole lotta undervoting going on.
posted by dhartung at 2:11 PM on November 6, 2002

somethingotherthan: You have some bad information. Baldwin is NOT Bob Riley's home county. His home county is Clay.
posted by republican at 3:23 PM on November 6, 2002

Well maybe there is some truth to the rumor that Georgia is building a new zoo...they plan to fence in Alabama...
posted by GT_RULES at 3:34 PM on November 6, 2002

Oooh, a politics post today I can comment on! Yay!

Anyway, grew up in lovely Mobile, Alabama, and for a short period went to the University of Alabama. There is a system of "Good ol Boys" more commonly known to UA students as "The Machine." A conspiracy to elevate those who scratch each others back to positions of power. By any means necessary. The theory is, you join a Fraternity at UA, then you're elected Student Government President, then all your Greek friends graduate and slowly take control of Alabama because they're hired by old Greeks, and then you can run for Governor, because it's your turn to return the favor.

This is the obvious fun thing to complain about all day on lazy University afternoons for renegade students. No, seriously, I was in this Real Genius/Revenge of the Nerds dormitory where we bitched about this ALL-DAY.

Is there a conspiracy in Alabama? I wouldn't be surpised. But then, I always assumed that the Alabama conspiracy theorists were jealous because they weren't getting hot sorority sex. I can tell you that no matter what happens, Alabama will ALWAYS elect the very least capable people into power. I remember Guy Hunt who was as rotten as they come, and then Sigleman came in and won on his promise of a lottery for Alabama (which was subsequently shot down). Riley probably isn't going to do much better. Unless you're willing to pay your dues to the 'Good Ol Boys', you're not going to get any assistance from politicians in Alabama. Year after year, education is rock-bottom and scandal plagued.

This is why I don't live in Alabama anymore.
posted by Stan Chin at 3:34 PM on November 6, 2002

A thousand apologies for my spelling errors :blush: and the county misinformation. But the main point of my post dhartung seems to have latched onto. The ballots were first counted around 11 pm, and only after midnight, as more boxes were counted and the votes got closer (at one point it went from 2000 to 8 to 6000 votes leading) did someone raise a stink.

Believe it or not, Alabama usually votes in an overwhelmingly Democratic state government; there have only been 2 Republican governors in the history of the state and one of them was Guy Hunt, who was impeached.

At least Seigelman ran on a platform (even if it was again the lottery). Riley just babbled about "a new day for Alabama" and did the George W "I'm a good guy" routine. Unfortunately, it seems to have worked.
posted by somethingotherthan at 3:57 PM on November 6, 2002

Well, since the lottery has already been voted down once already, Siegelman's lottery platform was the same as having no platform. And Siegelman has had plenty of legal and ethical problems as documented in the state's newspapers.
posted by republican at 4:21 PM on November 6, 2002

Actually, all 67 counties' machines are not tested and tallied in the same place. Several counties (the bigger ones) own their own machines and maintain and program them. The others are leased by Election Systems & Software, which has an office in Birmingham (where I worked for five years, in charge of programming election machines for Alabama and elsewhere). Every county tallies their votes in their county seat by consolidating the data from each individual voting machine.

Here's an interesting article about ESS and their questionable business practices.
posted by kickerofelves at 4:45 PM on November 6, 2002

Stan Chin: Siegelman was elected to some or the other student body position with the backing of "the Machine." Or so it is said. Just for the record.
posted by raysmj at 6:16 PM on November 6, 2002

apparently the same company did the florida election and lost 100,000 votes....hmmmm
posted by amberglow at 7:16 PM on November 6, 2002

There were all sorts of problems with the tallies from AP. My boss was running for the State Senate Tuesday also. At one point AP reported all boxes were in and my boss lost 78-21%. This was VERY unusual as he was the Democratic nominee in a predominantly Democratic district. After reporting this for 45 minutes or so, even with analysis how his opponent would be the first black Republican in the Alabama legislature since Reconstruction, AP corrected itself. Boss Ross (as he is affectionately known) had the 78%. So this reporting hiccup seems plausible and we will probably end with Riley in the Governor's Mansion.

I work at a magnet arts high school five blocks from the Governor's mansion. His daughter goes to the school and I am constantly running into his wife, who is very active in arts education. I am disappointed to see him go. He was a great supporter of education. Alabama has some really restrictive bid laws. They have bitten me in strange ways (why would I need a bid from Apple if they are my only source for Apple products?) and they bit him also. Granted his no-bid contracts smelled of the cronyism Southern politics is notorious for. I still think he is a straightforward guy as far as politicians go. I hope it works out where he is in another four years, but I think he lost by 2500 or so votes.

And there goes my MeFi cherry. Long time listener, first time caller.
posted by spartacusroosevelt at 8:35 PM on November 6, 2002

I find it hard to believe that the only race affected by this new count is the governor's race. Because if the ballots were inserted into the machines incorrectly, wouldn't that make all votes on the ballot null and void?

I'll be sorry to see Siegelman go as well, he did a lot of good things for the state. I hate the political atmosphere, with the extreme Christian right so closely knit into the politics, but I suppose that's the way it goes.
posted by somethingotherthan at 9:44 PM on November 6, 2002

Why were the ballots recounted in the first place? Because the Libertarian candidate John Sophocleus registered more votes than Siegelman in the Magnolia Springs section of Baldwin County.

Associated Press declaring Riley the winner by a margin of 6300 votes.
posted by somethingotherthan at 9:48 PM on November 6, 2002

Well, I'm in Alabama and judging by all the mudslinging, it just kind of saddens me that these were the only choices we had. Sucks that we can't have a lottery, too...hard-core Babtists are down on that sort of thing, unless it's a church raffle, I suppose, which is totally different and fine, of course.
posted by Jimmy Olsen at 1:27 AM on November 7, 2002

Siegelman Asks for Recount; Riley Refuses Apparently the counts being thrown around are not the official tallies.
posted by somethingotherthan at 8:57 PM on November 7, 2002

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