Last updated: May 28. 2013 11:28PM - 611 Views
By - mguydish@timesleader.com - (570) 991-6112

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DID YOU fend off the “havoc?” Were you able to outrun the “meltdown?”

Did you, in short, survive the horror of “Primary election night 2013?”

I’m talking, of course, of the Luzerne County Election Bureau computer server failure that left media types scrambling — scrambling— to get vote results for a whopping two hours election Tuesday.

That’s right, the media — and the world — were denied repeated access to vital information like “At 8:15 p.m. with 2 percent of the vote counted, Walter Griffith is winning the Republican nomination for Luzerne County Controller.”

To hear some others report it, calamity was barely kept at bay. A competing local daily headline called it “havoc,” which my Webster’s defines as “1) wide and general destruction” and “2) great confusion and disorder.”

Neither occurred.

Here’s the reality: For a bit more than two hours reporters couldn’t get irrelevant data with a lazy click of a computer mouse. If you wanted the results, you had to do it the old fashioned way: Gathering it yourself, rather than having it spoon fed to your LCD screen while wolfing down pizza and coffee.

Please. A little perspective.

Until 2007, there was no such thing as online results here. We survived fine for decades without them. If you wanted numbers you had three choices: Get them yourself by racing to each polling place and writing them down, station reporters in different political beehives where interested politicos tallied races they cared about and who would share their numbers, or hover at the courthouse rotunda to glean any scraps of info you could get before deadline.

You want havoc of the “great confusion and disorder” type? It was the norm prior to online results.

Notably, the county website was back up before the final, unofficial count was available. When the data that mattered was there, everyone with a computer had access to it. Which means the “story” wasn’t really about the county server going down, it was about the media not having instant access at out desktops.

And the county is not required to post results online as soon as they are available. Such postings make a great deal of sense and certainly should be done, and county officials would rightly face brutal criticism if it weren’t. But it’s a courtesy, not a right.

In a bit of irony, the crash may have been caused by the growing number of media people logging on to see election results every few minutes. After all, it doesn’t seem likely the general public was overwhelming the server. Only 19.79 percent of people over 18 voted in Luzerne County.

That’s an all-time low, and it’s the real calamity here.

When less than one-fifth of those who can vote do, it may be time to start talking about a democracy meltdown that could lead to havoc.

Mark Guydish can be reached at 829-7161

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