Originally created 07/23/98

Columbia County using Internet tally

What began as an idea only a month ago became one of the fastest references for election information in Georgia on Tuesday night.

For the first time ever, election results for every race were posted on Columbia County's Internet Web site, almost as fast as workers could count the votes.

"For the Internet to be practical, you've got to have a good use for it. (Tuesday) night was a perfect example," said Lewis Foster, county management Information Services Director, whose personnel deigned and implemented the Internet postings.

Last month, employees thought it might not be too difficult to post election numbers on the county's existing Web site, already maintained by the MIS network technician, Stephen Sullivan.

"Since Stephen is our resident master of the Internet, we asked him to come up with something and he went to work," said Bob Bollig, Mr. Sullivan's colleague.

The county already has been offering electronic election results the past four years via television monitors at the Evans Government Complex, Mr. Bollig said. But the Internet was an untapped source of distributing that information.

Despite the short planning period, the plan worked without a hitch, Mr. Sullivan said.

"I started planning on this only a week and a half ago," he said.

With numbers updated every few minutes directly from county election computers, the few folks who accessed the site election night were probably the first in the county to know who the winners and losers were, officials said.

The success is encouraging for the MIS department, Mr. Foster said. Because information is their business, department personnel hope, with future improvements in equipment and software, it is just the beginning.

"At all the future elections we will have election results and other information online," Mr. Bollig said.

For the upcoming Aug. 11 runoffs, the site will have vote breakdowns by precinct, he said.

"We have been talking about putting (information) from the tax assessors office, maps from planning and zoning and bids for purchasing, as well," he said.

Columbia County's Internet efforts may be way ahead of the rest of the state.

According to Kara Jones, spokeswoman for the Secretary of State's office -- which has it's own state election Web site -- Columbia County may be the only local government posting election results.

"I didn't know Columbia County was doing that, but I bet folks love it," Ms. Jones said. "It's an awesome service. I don't know of any other counties that are doing it."

Columbia County's Web site address is http://www.scescape.net/ccboc.


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