An Excel mistake resulted in Austrian political party announcing the wrong leader

Have you ever made a mistake in Excel while at work? Maybe typed in the wrong formula or missed out a row? There might have been repercussions, but they’re unlikely to be as severe as those experienced by a major Austrian political party, which announced the wrong result of a leadership contest due to a spreadsheet error.

Austria’s Social Democratic party (SPÖ) admitted that it had over the weekend announced the wrong candidate as the winner of a closely contested election to determine its next leader.

On Saturday, the SPÖ declared that Hans Peter Doskozil, governor of the eastern Burgenland province, had been elected the party’s new leader. But Doskozil didn’t celebrate for long. On Monday, SPÖ election director Michaela Grubesa admitted that a “technical error by a colleague with an Excel table” during the counting of results had resulted in the wrong winner being announced. “The ballots didn’t match the digitally announced result,” she said.

Andreas Babler, loser and then winner of the count

Austrian media (via The Guardian) reports that the mistake was only discovered when a journalist noticed there was a vote unaccounted for in the final results and questioned the party’s electoral commission about the matter, leading to a recount.

Andreas Babler, the mayor of the south-eastern city of Traiskirchen, was declared the actual winner on Monday. He had won 53% of the vote, beating Doskozil’s 47%. The original result had Doskozil winning by 53%.

“It’s important for me to stress that there were no mistakes during the election itself or in the work of the election committee,” said Grubesa, who said she regretted not requesting a recount over the weekend to ensure there had been no mistakes.

After he was confirmed as the actual winner, Babler said that the commission should count the votes again for accuracy’s sake. He said that the mistake was “painful” for all involved and bad for the party’s image, adding that he wanted to work on the “complete comeback” of the SPÖ. The debacle has led to some questioning the party’s ability to win a general election when it can’t even get its internal voting right.

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