Election 2021: News service admits error in early election counts

Republican challenger William Rowback, Jr., left, and Gloversville Mayor Vince DeSantis are seen in this split image of Leader-Herald file photos.

GLOVERSVILLE — Some supporters of Republican mayoral candidate William Rowback Jr. have been confused and angered since Tuesday night when television news stations in Albany — all using the same Capital District Election Service consortium for election results — incorrectly projected Rowback as leading the unofficial vote totals in the mayor’s race, giving him 1,721 votes to 1,518 for incumbent Vince DeSantis.

Those early numbers include 1,147 more total votes than the unofficial Fulton County Board of Election vote totals posted on their website around 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, which showed DeSantis with 1,094 votes to Rowback’s 998, giving DeSantis a 96-vote lead.

Vote totals from the Capital District Election Service also showed Republican councilman-at-large candidate Wayne Peters leading Gloversville Party Candidate Arthur Simonds 3,959 to 2,669, but the FCBOE vote totals showed Peters with a lead of 1,125 to 721.

All of the news agencies that reported the earlier numbers from the Capital District Election Service have since changed them to the numbers posted to the FCBOE website.

Fulton County Democratic Election Commissioner G. Jerry Ryan said the Fulton County Board of Elections [FCBOE] has been inundated with angry phone calls since Tuesday, mostly from confused and angry Rowback supporters. He said the FCBOE never released any numbers directly to the Capital District Election Service, and he doesn’t understand where they got them from.

“We’ve been getting a lot of calls saying ‘why didn’t we report the accurate data’ and ‘Rowback’s winning’ and all of that, and I said look at our website — that’s not the case,” Ryan said. “People who want to believe things are fraudulent or incorrect, they’re going to believe it. It’s not everybody, but we’re getting some people who are calling.”

Paul Conti, the director of the Capital District Election Service, on Thursday said the incorrect vote totals for Rowback and the other Gloversville council races Tuesday were the result of human data entry error by one of the employees of his consortium who accidently entered incorrect data three different times for the incorrect vote totals for the Gloversville election results.

“[The person] clicked the ‘add button’ instead of the ‘replace’ button and when she didn’t see it [update] she did it again,” Conti said. “She thought she was making a mistake, [which] she was, but not the mistake she thought she was making, and she added it again and again.”

Conti said he knows there were multiple errors involved in calculating the Gloversville election totals by his organization. He said he is investigating all of the data entered into his system to determine precisely when and how the adding mistakes happened. He said doesn’t know why there was a lead-change in the DeSantis Rowback race.

Conti said his consortium Tuesday night used volunteers from the Gloversville Student Council to try to collect voter precinct-level data, but he said his software developer deleted the precinct information they collected in the Gloversville mayor’s race in an attempt to fix the incorrect voter totals they began observing shortly after 10 p.m. He said deleting the precinct-level information was a mistake, but it should not have affected the total vote count, which he took directly from the FCBOE himself after midnight when he personally corrected the Gloversville numbers.

“The developer, in an abundance of caution, fearing that perhaps something at the precinct level was also erroneous for the night, for whatever reason, deleted just the Gloversville mayor’s race from our precinct reports, but we have all of the other reports from all of the other races from Gloversville on a precinct-level,” Conti said.

He said he would attempt to reconstruct the precinct numbers today and all of the different voter totals used throughout Tuesday night in an attempt to isolate where the mistakes occurred and why.

The Leader-Herald on Tuesday night reported the numbers directly from the FCBOE website. Some social media accounts commenting on the election story posted to the Leader-Herald’s Facebook page were not happy with the inconsistency from the earlier Capital Region media projections.

“Doesn’t matter if they put in who they want to they always find a way to cheat,” wrote a Facebook account with the name Sally Christman, and then added in a second post, “I read Rowback was 200 points ahead last night.”

Another account with the name “Susan Lee” posted “They haven’t counted all the deceased ppl yet.”

Other people posting on social media included references to the 2017 Gloversville mayoral election which initially showed Rowback was the winner until an erroneous double counting of some ballots was discovered. A similar mistake was made a few years prior when current 4th Ward Councilwoman Ellen Anadio appeared at first to defeat Steve Smith, until the double-counting was discovered and reversed the outcome.

Ryan said the Fulton County Board of Elections stopped taking in precinct-level vote total reports by phone from election inspectors after the 2017 election, eliminating the traditional white board or black board BOE counting of the votes as they came in by phone.

“We do not rely on election inspectors calling-in results. We rely on election inspectors bringing in the memory chips, and then we enter them into the database and send them into the [New York] state Board of Elections,” Ryan said. “I wasn’t there, but I would say that’s a reform based on [the 2017] election where we had an election inspector call-in numbers that were out of line. The people at the Board of Elections should have caught it — she called in numbers that were double what the precinct voter registration [totals] were, so whether she did it on purpose or on accident, I don’t know.”

Ryan said he thinks it’s tragic that many Fulton County voters who were already inclined to believe in stolen elections without evidence due to rhetoric used by former President Donald Trump may now become even more skeptical of the voting process because of the Capital District Election Service.

“I’m not happy about this, it creates huge problems with more people believing in fraudulent stuff,” Ryan said. “This isn’t good for democracy.”

By Jason Subik

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