Computer glitch frustrated election crowd
The anxious crowd was focused on one thing Tuesday night: Who won?
Would it be the same City Council and School Committee, or would any of the challengers be able to pull off an upset?
For a while, though, it looked as though breakdown by Election Commission computers would delay the answer — and the crowd would riot.
A failure of the commission computer delayed the results by more than an hour as the crowd of politics fans massed behind the cattle chains at the Central Square senior center, where city officials stored the ballots and entered the “cards” from each polling location into the computer to be immediately downloaded and tallied.
People got really antsy after the initial count of No. 1 ballots was announced, teasing them with preliminary results before the computers balked.
The final results were supposed to have been in before 9:30 p.m., commission members said. But by 10:30 p.m. the smiling group of volunteers and officials had turned into a frowning group of computer mechanics.
“It’s a bad sign when you see the computer being taken apart,” one observer said.
Sure enough, the computer was on the fritz and could not be repaired.
“There was a problem with the floppy drive that was taking the cards,” political analyst Robert Winters said. “So they ended up cannibalizing another computer to get a functioning floppy drive. It was a minor hardware problem. But without that floppy drive, they could not transfer the information.”
The only serious consequence of the delay was the delay of victory parties. And it turned out the final tallies closely followed the No. 1 results.
The margin of error is wide enough, in fact, that results shouldn’t change significantly even as every vote — including overseas ballots — is counted between now and Nov. 18, when the election results become official.