Overvotes, other errors slow Lincoln Co. counting process

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, November 3, 2004

Marks for multiple presidential candidates and otherballot-related problems contributed to a slow vote-counting processTuesday night at the government complex.

Vote-counting began around 7:15 p.m. Tuesday but was notcompleted until 1:45 a.m. Wednesday, said Lincoln County CircuitClerk Terry Lynn Watkins.

Election officials attributed the counting delays to numerous”over votes” in which more than one candidate was selected in arace. Over votes were especially evident in the presidentialrace.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“We had a bunch of them (ballots) where they marked everybodyrunning for president,” Watkins said.

With seven candidates for president, five names were printed inone column of the ballot and two at the top of another column.Another common sight Tuesday night was ballots showing candidatesfrom both columns getting votes, thus resulting in an over vote inthe presidential race.

“People weren’t prepared for that many presidential candidatesis my guess,” said Renee Hutson, a member of the resolution boardthat reviewed over vote ballots.

The vote-scanning machine was set up to reject questionedballots and send them to the resolution board. The machine stoppedevery time there was an over vote.

“When it kicks it out, it’s not counting anything on thatballot,” Watkins said.

Even though one race may be spoiled due to an over vote, Watkinssaid the law requires all races to be counted. Resolution boardmembers copied the votes onto new ballots but left the over votedrace blank, meaning votes in that race could not be counted.

“There’s no way to determine who that person intended to votefor,” Watkins said about races where more than one candidate waschosen.

The duplicate ballot was then scanned.

Hutson reported no problems among resolution board members indetermining how to proceed with the over voted ballots.

“It hasn’t been a hard thing to decide how to mark those thatwere in question,” Hutson said.

Election officials did not have a total on the number of overvoted ballots.

However, resolution board members said they ran out of duplicateballots for three precincts: Johnson, Alexander and Enterprise. Dueto an oversight with the printer, some duplicate ballots were alsoused early for absentee voting.

District One Election Commissioner John Hightower indicated theover vote problems were nothing new.

“You have this every election,” he said.

In some other cases, ballots marked with check marks or Xs werekicked out. Ballot instructions dictated that ovals bedarkened.

“The voters are not marking the ballot right,” said Hightower,adding that any stray mark can cause the machine to question theballot.

Hightower said more voter education efforts were needed.

“You can tell them every year and they do the same thing,”Hightower said.

In other vote-counting issues, Watkins said the Johnson and WestLincoln precincts ran out of ballots during the day. She saidcopies of the ballots, which numbered a few dozen, were made andhad to be hand-counted.

Also, several hundred ballots from Rogers Circle and City Hallremained to be hand-counted Wednesday morning. Although there wereseveral attempts to scan the ballots, Watkins said there was notenough ink on ballot for the scanner to read.