Thanks to the botched Florida election in 2000, the United States has marched towards the chadless future and insisted every state have modern, up-to-date voting machines. The optical scanner is apparently the device chosen by a majority of the states. It’s like filling out an SAT, using a pen to fill in bubbles to mark your preferences and then you feed it into the scanner. This way, should someone challenge the computer calculations, there’s a paper copy for recounts.
I miss the old lever machine I used the previous 48 years of my life.
In five districts, we had several RTM races within two votes forcing a mandatory recount. Said recount began on Tuesday and ended today. Yep, it took us four days to handle recounts. As I understand it, the ballots were fed back into the machine to check the tallies. If the numbers remained too close to call, they were then hand counted.
Volunteer poll workers were sequestered in a room at our town Senior Center and performed the counts, one district at a time, with Democrat and Republican representatives watching.
The races in districts 7 and 9 worked out just fine and were easily dispatched. District 1 was much closer and required the hand count and that was done twice.
Yesterday, District 4 suddenly looked like our Majority Leader, Doug Jones, went from being 2 votes down to 4 votes up. This triggered a new hand count, conducted this morning. Also, while they tallied District 2, our Democrat, Karen Sussman, challenged a hand count feeling one of the people missed a vote. Since it affected the outcome, the moderator made the decision to have everything up to that point recounted today. The remaining 20% or so would be counted and their tally would stand.
Today, I was asked to come down and help the Democrats, taking a shift of monitoring people tally the papers. What was supposed to be 90 minutes stretched to closer to 5 hours. The place was packed with reps from both parties including the senior and most active members of the RTC – I felt outnumbered. I consider myself fortunate to be on good terms with all of them which made it feel more collegial than anything. Michael Hahn, who lost in District 10, was there and sprung first for donuts then later bought everyone, including many of the volunteer counters, sandwiches for lunch.
All the local press including Channel 12 were there, watching and hearing everyone gripe about the system not quite working as advertised.
While the optical scanner is great at reading what’s fed in, the hand tally requires the tried and true method of making hatch marks and counting every bundle of five. Apparently, some of the people were putting their hatch marks all over the tally sheets rather than in need rows and columns which led to sloppy totals.
So, for today’s tally, District 4’s votes were sorted into all 5 for the Democrats, all 5 for the Republicans then the mixed ones had a separate stack. People then tallied each stack to make certain they were properly sorted and were properly all five for one party or the other. Sure enough, three sheets from the Elephants to the Donkeys. Meantime, people were re-verifying the absentee ballots to make certain those numbers matched and sure enough, today’s tally matched Tuesday’s but not Thursday’s.
The mixed votes were then tallied, split among two teams. Fortunately, that went fairly quickly but it also showed that Doug was once more behind.
To be certain about District 2, our First Selectman asked for two auditors to come over from Town Hall. They arrived and were set up in another room. I got to watch them tally the two closest candidates and while tedious, it moved along at a much faster clip. However, when we were done, it also proved to be the 20% that didn’t need to be counted. The Moderator got things mixed up so as I finally left, they were just getting started on the 80% they really needed to count.
When all was said and done, everyone declared a winner a week ago, were still the winners. Not a single contest changed. This goes to prove that our former Town Clerk, Maugerite Toth, was right. The final totals may change but not the outcomes.