Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Where the voting numbers come from

I went to Moody School to get the vote counts for Districts 4 and 5. When I arrived in the parking lot, I observed the last voter racing as if his life depended on making it into Moody before 8:00PM, when the polls closed. He made it, and when his vote was scanned, Earle Roberts, one of several election workers who had been there since 5AM, asked that the doors be closed. He and the other election officials were very happy to let anybody stay around to watch the vote tabulation, they simply asked that we stay at the other end of the gym from where the voting machines were. [Several representatives of Matt Lesser's campaign joined me in waiting for the results. They were jittery with suspense over what the results might show.]

Most of the tables and all the chairs were put away, and several election workers went to the machine that had scanned and collected all of the ballots for District 4. The process of getting the votes was astonishingly easy and fast. After pushing a few buttons, the machine spit out a receipt similar to that of a cash register. Roberts brought it over to us, and taped it to a table for us to peruse. He then repeated the process for District 5. [Lesser's campaign manager let out a few gasps of joy at the numbers for the 100th District, but he told me that those numbers might not be enough to overcome Kalinowski's advantage in Middlefield and Durham (it turned out they were)]

Having copied down the preliminary vote counts for Districts 4 and 5, I was ready to return to hearth and home (and internet to file the preliminary results). However, I stayed just long enough to learn that the election workers do an important check of the numbers before bringing them down to city hall. In every race, the machine not only recorded votes for each candidate on the ballot, but also also recorded blank "votes". The number of blanks was quite significant, for example in the 9th State Senate District, the machine recorded 490 Capenera votes, 596 Doyle votes, and 68 blank "votes". The sum total of all these machine-recorded votes was compared by the election workers at Moody School to the number of people who were recorded by the election workers as having voted. Before each of us could vote, our name and address was crossed off of a list of eligible voters, and we were given a small numbered tag which we exchanged for our actual ballot. The election workers carefully counted the number of names crossed off the list, cross-checked it to the number of small tags that were given out, and compared that number with the number of ballots counted by the machine. Any discrepancies were noted (these are rare, according to the workers I spoke with), and then the vote totals are driven downtown.

The results are then tabulated at City Hall, as described HERE.

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