Counting votes a full day’s work
BRECKENRIDGE – Election clerks at the Summit County Courthouse in Breckenridge spent seven-and-a-half hours tabulating more than 8,200 ballots cast in the mid-term election Tuesday night.
But the time spent counting wasn’t out of the ordinary.
“Not at all,” said Elections Administrator Vicky Stecklein. “Considering the turnout and the number of absentee ballots we had and the number that came back that were erased, it was not bad at all.”
Summit County has 15,766 active voters and an additional 7,564 inactive voters. Between 500 to 1,000 inactive voters contacted the clerk and recorder’s office prior to Election Day to reinstate their status.
Polls throughout Colorado close at 7 p.m., at which point election clerks began counting early and absentee ballots. The process took more than three hours, not only because of the volume of early and absentee ballots, which totalled 2,432, but because of the stack of ballots kicked out of the system.
Typically, ballots are scanned through a computer with a scanner that reads the ballots. If the ballot is marred in any fashion – most typically by erasure marks – the sensitive optic scanner detects that and sets the ballot aside.
The scanner is set up to “see” pencil marks, and if it detects any measure of carbon, the machine kicks out the ballot, believing the voter has voted twice on that question. Those ballots are then sent to a resolution board, which verifies the intent of the voter and fills out a new ballot.
“It’s very important that every vote be counted,” Stecklein said. “We do that for the voter. Even if they make a mistake, they have a right to cast every vote they meant to cast. Every candidate and every issue deserves to get every vote that’s cast.”
Tuesday night, the resolution board had to review about 200 marred ballots – before it could count votes from the county’s 17 precincts.
“It’s not that our system doesn’t work,” Stecklein said. “It’s that our system works so well.”
It was 10 p.m. when absentee and early ballots were tabulated and the results set aside. Under Colorado law, absentee and early ballots are counted first and their results released last.
Election officials then run ballots from each precinct through the computer on a first-come, first-counted basis and announce results as they become apparent.
Summit County had 17 precincts in this midterm election, and counting the 8,239 ballots took seven-and-a-half hours. Stecklein said she was at the courthouse until 5:30 a.m. sending election returns to state officials.
“From our perspective, the teamwork flowed – as it always does,” Stecklein said. “We were right on schedule. Counting ballots is a precision that’s not mandated by any outside timeline. It takes as long as it takes. We want to go home too.”
Stecklein has 12 days to verify and count an additional 56 provisional ballots. She hopes to recruit board members from the local Republican and Democratic parties to assist her.
Provisional ballots are given to voters at their polling locations when their names don’t appear in the voter registration book. Voters fill out an affidavit and cast a ballot. Election officials must verify the information provided in the affidavit before those votes can be tabulated.
Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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