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New vote count on hold while technician works on Davison County machine

A technician is working on the vote-counting machine this morning at the Davison County courthouse in Mitchell as officials there try to sort out a mess that has thrown the local results of Tuesday's election into doubt.

Vote-counting machine
Davison County Deputy Auditor Karen Knadle and a technician from Election Systems & Software, of Omaha, Neb., try to diagnose the problem with the vote-counting machine Thursday morning at the Davison County Courthouse in Mitchell. (Chris Huber/Republic)

A technician is working on the vote-counting machine this morning at the Davison County courthouse in Mitchell as officials there try to sort out a mess that has thrown the local results of Tuesday's election into doubt.

The technician is from Election Systems & Software, of Omaha, Neb., and was called in to assist with a fresh count of the votes from Tuesday's election after possible errors were detected in the results.

The Daily Republic has a reporter and photographer stationed at the courthouse. It's unclear to them whether the problems with the machine are a result of it malfunctioning or being improperly used or both. Davison County State's Attorney Pat Smith has told them if the technician can't get the machine working properly, a new machine may have to be brought in or the ballots may have to be taken to a similar machine in Sioux Falls.

The Daily Republic attempted to speak with the technician, who declined to divulge his name and said "I can't talk to you at all."

In the meantime, the county canvassing board, which convened at 9:30 a.m. for a new count of the votes, has recessed until 11:30 a.m. At that time, if the machine still isn't operational, a decision will be made about how to proceed. If the machine is operational, the new count of the votes could presumably proceed.

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Davison County Auditor Susan Kiepke acknowledged Wednesday that errors were detected in Tuesday's vote counting that could possibly change the results. She said some "test data" may have been included in the results and also said some ballots, perhaps hundreds, may have been counted more than once.

Officials are trying to avoid labeling the ensuing process a "recount," because there are provisions in state law defining the margins within which a losing candidate can request a recount, and what's happening in Davison County is something different from that. Secretary of State Jason Gant on Wednesday called it a second count before the canvassing of the results.

"I guess in grade school, we called it a do-over," said State's Attorney Smith, who is on hand to provide legal advice to county officials.

Five of the six candidates from the Mitchell mayoral race, multiple media outlets and Davison County Treasurer Brenda Veldheer, who lost Tuesday according to the unofficial results, are all on hand to watch the process.

Mayor-elect Ken Tracy is scheduled to address the Mitchell Rotary Club at noon today, which all the mayoral candidates agreed to to do if they won. He's now at the courthouse and wondering aloud if he should cancel the appearance.

Candidates gather
Numerous local officials are gathered at the courthouse this morning to observe the new count of votes from Tuesday's election. Pictured here, clockwise from back left, are mayoral candidate Jerry Toomey, mayor-elect Ken Tracy, City Finance Officer Marilyn Wilson, mayoral candidate Tara Volesky, mayoral candidate Roger Haley and Davison County Treasurer Brenda Veldheer. (Chris Huber/Republic)

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