Vote-by-mail ballots are shown in sorting trays, Aug. 5, 2020, at the King County Elections headquarters in Renton. (AP Photo / Ted S. Warren)

Vote-by-mail ballots are shown in sorting trays, Aug. 5, 2020, at the King County Elections headquarters in Renton. (AP Photo / Ted S. Warren)

Data mistake briefly misreported some Snohomish County primary tallies

When uploaded to the state’s website, a precinct got tallied twice, throwing the numbers off. The error was quickly fixed.

EVERETT — A mapping error upended ballot counts in a pair of Snohomish County precincts on Tuesday, leading to different results showing up on the state elections website but no changed outcomes in a handful of races.

County and state election officials discovered votes cast in one precinct were counted twice, while those from another precinct did not get counted at all.

Once corrected, the county reloaded its original tally of ballots into the state reporting system. This produced updated and correct vote totals on the state’s elections result site in races in the 44th Legislative District, 1st Congressional District, U.S. Senate and secretary of state.

Results posted by the county on its elections webpage shortly after 8 p.m. were correct and never changed. The problem occurred in the transfer of data to the state’s reporting system.

Until fixed, it caused palpitations. The Secretary of State’s Office had posted the county’s results on its website, then quickly removed them when the issue was found. It took about 45 minutes to rectify after which the county’s votes got added back into the state totals.

“While we’re certainly disappointed that we had delays on election night, it’s important that we ultimately produce accurate results and the process is transparent,” Snohomish County Auditor Garth Fell said Wednesday.

Secretary of State Steve Hobbs said Wednesday he had been told about the uploading issue.

“The good thing is it was caught immediately and fixed,” he said.

Those tracking results on the state website would have noticed little change in the numbers.

For example, in the legislative duel between state Sen. John Lovick, D-Mill Creek, and Republican Jeb Brewer of Snohomish, the incumbent gained six votes and the challenger lost 36. Overall, Lovick garnered 60% of the vote.

This issue involved precincts named Minor, east of Bothell, and Misty, south of Mill Creek. Minor has 588 registered voters and Misty has 680.

When the county completed its ballot count Tuesday, the results by precinct were compiled into a tabulation file. Tallies from those two precincts were included. That data, in an XML format, was put on a clean USB drive, then uploaded to the state’s election reporting system through a secure connection.

County and state workers reviewed the data precinct by precinct and saw Minor showed up twice and Misty didn’t show up at all.

Fell explained the mapping tool used to populate results data by precincts had to be adjusted. Once done, the county reloaded data from its tabulation file and the error was fixed on the state website.

“The mapping issue has been resolved for this election,” Fell said. “We’ll continue to be proofing diligently every day.”

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @dospueblos.

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