It’s time to update vote counting here

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, May 8, 2001

The first round of this year’s election is behind us, with a fewcandidates laying claim to elected offices and others still facingsome challenges ahead.

In last week’s primary, as in past elections, a recurringchallenge seems to be finding a way to quickly and accurately countballots. In both elections held so far this year — the flag voteon April 17 and the city primaries Tuesday — the clock approached11 p.m., five hours after polls closed, before all votes werecounted.

For the flag vote, the county-owned scanning machine, whichjammed numerous times due to problems with some of the almost11,300 ballots, was used for counting. Any number of things — fromhumidity, to smudges to folds — can cause the machine to jam.

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Poll workers at six city precincts Tuesday hand-counted over2,900 ballots. At least one precinct counted the racescandidate-by-candidate instead of ballot-by-ballot.

In that ward, if a person voted for the last candidate listed ineach race, that means that person’s ballot was handled 13 times.That means that voter’s ballot was “counted” over 150 times.

In an extreme case, that creates the potential equivalent ofcounting several thousand ballots in each ward instead of severalhundred.

Conducting an election is no easy task, and we commend all theofficials and poll workers for helping things run as smoothly asthey did. But, we also believe the time has come for city andcounty officials to work together on updating vote-countingprocedures here.

We don’t know what the answer is, but it seems that in the year2001 voters should know the outcome of their elections at areasonable hour.

Looking on the bright side, though, at least we didn’t have todeal with pregnant, dimpled or hanging chad.