Glitches throw a spanner in the works

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 September, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 September, 2000, 12:00am

Human error and a computer glitch were to blame for ballot-counting confusion, the head of the election watchdog, Mr Justice Woo Kwok-hing, said.

The announcement of final results was delayed for 45 minutes and updates could not be carried out on time, keeping candidates and reporters waiting for hours at the counting centre in Wan Chai.

Mr Justice Woo, Electoral Affairs Commission chairman, said some voters had cast ballots in the wrong place.

Sixty geographical constituency ballot papers disappeared at a counting centre in New Territories East and 18 functional constituency ballots were placed in the wrong box.

Four ballot papers were labelled with the same computer barcode, which led to hours of confusion as officers tried to find out why computer results did not tally with the manual count.

'The officers are very careful,' Mr Justice Woo said. 'They had to wait to re-collect those wrongly placed ballot papers before announcing the results.' He said the commission would ask the company responsible for labelling the computer barcodes for an explanation.

The number of invalid ballot papers jumped from 8,672 in 1998 to 11,502. Most of these spoiled votes were unmarked. About 8,500 voters cast blank votes in the geographical constituencies, while more than 3,000 unmarked ballots were found in the functional constituencies.

A government spokeswoman last night could not account for the increase in blank votes and said the Government would listen to advice from academics after they had studied the problem.