A year ago, Prince William County was one of the last jurisdictions in the state to release unofficial election results to the public. But Tuesday was a different story. County elections officials said this week that modifications to the process made this year's vote tabulation much smoother and much faster.
The improvements, which specifically targeted a computer database used for tallying votes and the election office's phone system, shaved several hours off last year's final vote count release and made counting easier for employees, officials said.
Last November, some results of the county-wide elections weren't released until after midnight. On Tuesday, all results were in by 9:30 p.m.
"We're pleased that we're running our faster reporting system, and while still ensuring the integrity of the election process, because that's the most important thing," said Wally Covington, secretary of the county's electoral board. "I don't mind it being later if we're making sure it's as good as it can be."
Most of the changes were designed to streamline the tabulation process to get preliminary numbers released to the public before much of the final paperwork is done. Covington said election officials at each of the county's 58 precincts are encouraged to phone in preliminary results after a single tally of the votes instead of waiting for a second, confirming count.
County officials also added a string of phone lines to the election headquarters so the different precincts could call in their votes without getting a busy signal. Last November, some elections officials couldn't get through and instead went home and called in their results hours later.
Last year, Prince William was the last jurisdiction in the state to report constitutional amendment vote tallies, which didn't come in until after midnight. Some of the confusion arose from computer database problems, which seemed to be fixed by Tuesday's election.
Covington said a new computer system permitted multiple employees to get access to the tabulation database at once, which allowed for several results to be entered at the same time. Last year's logjam added several hours to the process.
A lower voter turnout also made things easier this year. Just 27 percent of the county's registered voters went to the polls Tuesday, a total of 36,000 voters. Covington said the absence of a major write-in campaign also quickened the results.