DuPage election officials disappointed in software rollout

DuPage County Election Commission officials were excited to roll out a shiny new computer system Tuesday night that was supposed to expedite election returns and give residents more data than ever before.

Instead, the commission's website sat blank, occasionally displaying error messages, for more than two hours after polls closed.

Robert Saar, executive director of the commission, said Wednesday the servers were stressed by a combination of factors, including an unexpected software update that consumed much of the server's processing space and a link the system had with ABC 7 News that allowed the TV station to receive election results directly from the commission's servers.

"ABC 7 was plugged into the same server so they would be getting the results at the same time everyone else would, but they were getting it in a format that fit into their reporting system," Saar said. "It caused a conflict, but once our IT people figured that out, they brought the other services down and plan B worked fine."

Plan B, he said, was a process to revert to the commission's previous system that showed only static results. Saar said data started uploading to that system around 8:30 p.m., meaning those watching at home or in local newsrooms finally started seeing figures roll in after 9 p.m.

But once the numbers did start coming in, they were wrong and showed erroneous vote totals - the result, Saar said, of someone forgetting to click two buttons in the rush of trying to transfer to the other system.

"It was confusing. That's all I can say. We corrected that on the next upload, and everything went back to normal after that," Saar said.

With April's consolidated election just around the corner, Saar said he's excited to give the new system another go.

"I am 100 percent confident that, heading into the consolidated election, that this is going to not only work flawlessly and quickly but that people are really going to like the features in there, especially with these municipal elections, because you'll be able to track things real well," he said. "But we'll keep the static results handy too, just in case I'm wrong and anything happens."

Saar said IT staff members had followed all testing protocols but did not expect the software upgrade.

"This wasn't just programming something and hoping it worked," Saar said. "There's a lot of thought and work put into this, and it really comes down to a conflict on the server. Once they figured that out, they fixed it and things worked."

The April 4 consolidated election will include the election of municipal, park district, library district, school district and fire district officials.

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