A Pennington County computer software accounting error, and lack of a manually compiled city tally sheet, were blamed Wednesday for reporting mistakes in Tuesday's municipal and school election results.

A late-night double-check changed numbers but not outcomes, as the South Valley Drive annexation passed and winners remained the same in individual races. The one difference is that city taxpayers will be spared the expense of a runoff for Ward 4's Rapid City Council post.

The initial Tuesday night report said incumbent Ron Kroeger received 49.96 percent of the vote, short of the 50 percent plus 1 vote re-election requirement. The recount found he actually received 51.8 percent, more than enough to secure his seventh term over challengers John Roberts and Steve Rolinger.

"To be truthful, I was geared for a runoff," Kroeger said Wednesday. "Whenever you have three individuals running for the same seat, the potential for a runoff is pretty high."

"But I'm certainly not going to miss having a runoff."

On Tuesday night, the individual precinct tallies were correct, Pennington County Auditor Julie Pearson said Wednesday.

But when officials combined information from the three ballot scanners for a grand total, a software glitch added thousands of votes.

In reality, only 5,613 ballots were cast in Tuesday's election, not the 10,488 initially reported.

"It's not that we found ballots. It's not that we lost ballots," Pearson said. "It's just combining them didn't work."

No one suspected a problem, Pearson said, because the scanners had worked smoothly all night.

But late in the evening, election officials started to question the initial vote tally of 10,000 votes, which seemed excessive to some. A manual audit revealed the error.

"By the time we discovered it and realized the right totals, everyone was at home and in bed," Pearson said.

City election officials had not kept a manual tally of votes Tuesday evening, a step that could have caught the scanners' math error, Pearson said. A written record is standard procedure for all county elections, she said.

City Finance Officer Jim Preston referred questions about the election count to Pearson.

"They're machines. I've learned not to trust them," Pearson said. "We have so many checks and balances we go through."

Voter turnout took a nose dive with the correct totals. While it originally appeared turnout was about 24 percent of the registered electorate, it was closer to 13 percent.

Pearson was not surprised by the low turnout but said she had expected more residents in the annexation area to vote.

Only 123 ballots were cast at the Rapid Valley Volunteer Fire Department - 120 against the annexation, three for joining Rapid City.

"It was such a low-key election," Pearson said. "The bigger-ticket items always bring people out to vote."

Roberts, who would have faced Kroeger in the Ward 4 runoff, was disappointed with Wednesday's news. But he said he'll try again in two years.

"I was looking forward to a runoff. It caught me by surprise," Roberts said. "I just need to work harder. I definitely can't outspend the other guys, so I just have to work harder."

Kroeger said he is excited to begin his seventh term and the city's next round of 2012 funding.

"There's no question, we need to spend more on infrastructure out of 2012 than we have in the past," Kroeger said. "We need to do a better job of repairing our existing streets."

The correct vote totals from Tuesday's election are:

South Valley Drive annexation: Yes, 3,354; No, 1,823

Mayor: Alan Hanks, 3,829; Bonnie Redden, 1,569

City Council Ward 2: Deb Hadcock, 331; Jeanette Deurloo, 289

Ward 3: Bill Waugh, 873; Bill Okrepkie, 424; Dan Michael, 258

Ward 4: Ron Kroeger, 300; John Roberts, 168; Steve Rolinger, 111

Ward 5: Aaron Costello, 895; John Lundeen, 339

School board Area 1: Suzan Nolan, 595; Heather Gosch, 399; Arnie Laubach, 104; Candice Estes, 84

Area 2: Sheryl Kirkeby, 297; Curt Pochardt, 123; Adam Sanders, 96

- Source: Pennington County Auditor Julie Pearson

Contact Emilie Rusch at 394-8453 or emilie.rusch@rapidcityjournal.com.

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