International virus risk hampered display of Philly election results

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 The website had major problems posting timely primary election results Tuesday night. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

The website had major problems posting timely primary election results Tuesday night. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

The website posting Philadelphia polling results experienced major issues Tuesday night during the low-turnout primary election. 

Increased security measures were apparently to blame.

The website went from showing 50 percent of the vote in to 10 percent — and it was inconsistent on the tally all night.  City Commissioner Al Schmidt said the vendor who provides the service to the city chalked it up to international events.

“The vendor explained a couple of days ago there was a worldwide viral threat, and, in response to that threat, our vendor locked down or ratcheted up — whatever word you choose — the security of our website to prevent it from being breached in any way,” Schmidt said Wednesday.

Security measures caused the website to switch between a primary and secondary server, which accounted for the different vote tallies that depended on when users refreshed their browsers.

“In the presidential general election, which you just saw, we did not encounter any of these problems,” he said. “With this one, our vendors felt they had to tighten up the security of the website, so even though we were getting fewer hits — or less scraping, as it’s called, of our results — the website itself was less elastic in being able to respond to those.”

The website issues did not affect tabulation of the votes, which Schmidt said is done on a completely different system.

“That website is just an external portal where we are showing the results that have come in,” he said. “The actual calculation of the results is separate from that.”

A canvassing or review is done as a matter of course after every election.

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