The Garden City Telegram
4/13/2013
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

Vexing vote

Trouble determining totals casts shadow over process.

Two candidates for Garden City Commission found themselves on a roller-coaster ride after the April 2 election.

A problem with the vote count left Melvin Dale and Troy Unruh facing uncomfortable twists and turns as election officials tried to figure out who won a seat on the commission.

While voters clearly gave two of three open seats to Janet Doll and Chris Law, the third spot was close between Dale and Unruh.

After polls closed, results from election workers had Unruh with a scant three-vote lead over Dale.

Yet County Clerk Elsa Ulrich later said that wasn't correct.

In an April 3 press release to address the erroneous count, Ulrich also took an unwarranted swipe at local media for reporting unofficial results — even though the figures were released by her office. As is customary with elections, The Telegram reminded readers that results were unofficial until the final canvass (certification) of election results.

After the initial results were issued, county residents saw subsequent vote counts before Monday's official canvass only contribute to the confusion, as the second count had Dale ahead and a third put Unruh back in front.

Finally, a hand count showed Dale winning by just 10 votes.

Ulrich initially blamed a computer malfunction for the first incorrect count shared with the public. But she also acknowledged a similar error in November, leaving citizens to wonder why the problem wasn't fixed in advance of the April election.

Citizens, after all, expect elections to be run in a fair, professional way. Accuracy and integrity are paramount.

At a time too few people vote, they don't need another reason to lose faith in the system.

Ulrich later admitted the problem wasn't computer-based, but rather human error on her part that caused specific wards to be counted multiple times.

Considering the unnecessary confusion in the city race, Ulrich — an elected official herself — is now left to reassure the people she serves.

She did step up and accept the blame. While that was welcome, local residents also need to know their county clerk will pursue changes needed to ward off such issues in the future.