Even before the Tuesday primary was over, Republican-run Delaware County gave Democrats their first issue for the general-election campaign: incompetence.
The county failed to post virtually any election results on its Web site until after most people went to bed.
"How can this happen? Why are we the only county that can't get a Web site to function on election night?" asked David Landau, a Democratic nominee for Delaware County Council.
The Web site, which usually provides a running total of votes, had this message for much of the night: "The May 2007 Municipal Primary Election website is currently under construction. Please check back between now and May 15th for updates."
The problem, according to the county, was twofold: new software, and the number of queries as voters clicked into the site, saw nothing posted, and then kept clicking.
"The sheer volume we had on the Web site was exacerbated because there were no numbers to be displayed," said John Barton, the county's network administrator.
The county had decided to include absentee votes in the totals for each precinct, but those votes had to be entered by hand, which delayed the posting of results.
When it was decided to stop including absentee votes and post only the machine results, Barton had to reprogram the system, which took a few hours. Largely complete results started appearing after 12:30 a.m. yesterday.
In past years, absentee votes were added after votes at the polls were counted.
The Data Processing Department, which oversees the Web site, has for decades been run by Upper Darby Republican leader John McNichol, who was on vacation yesterday and could not be reached for comment.
County Democratic leader Cliff Wilson noted yesterday that at one point Tuesday night, Philadelphia reported results for hundreds of precincts while Delaware County showed only partial returns for 50 out of 424.
"The focus in county government has never been to let the public know [information] in a timely manner," Wilson said.
County Council Chairman Andy Reilly, a Republican, said, "I agree the Web site was an issue," and added that the county was working to solve the problem. It will be the "major subject" in a meeting on the election for department heads, he said.
Reilly said the system should have been tested before the primary. He "guaranteed" that the county would aim to "get the numbers out there as quickly as possible" in the November election.
Barton now believes that the current system can't handle election-night volume, and that more Web servers will have to be added, he said.
"We really have to have a full evaluation before the fall election," said Ann O'Keefe, a Democratic candidate for county council from Haverford.
"The fact we were waiting as long as we did was ridiculous," she said.
In November, voters will fill three seats on the five-seat council. The third Democratic nominee with Landau, of Wallingford, and O'Keefe is John Innelli of Rose Valley. The Republicans are Christine Fizzano Cannon of Middletown Township, Andy Lewis of Haverford, and Tom McGarrigle of Springfield.
Democrats have not had a seat on the council since 1980.