January 29, 2023

Dawson County Journal

Dawson County, Nebraska

A transparent look at the ballot counting process

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — The 2022 midterm elections are now less than two weeks away, all registered voters should have received their ballot in the mail. 

Voters have until 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 8 to turn in their ballot. But, voters also have until Halloween, Oct. 31, to mail it back to make sure it arrives on time. 

Election security is top of mind for a lot of voters. So, how seriously do election officials take fraud? 

Jefferson County Clerk and Recorder George Stern said there are multiple checks in the process to ensure the correct people vote and only vote once. However, what happens if someone does receive a ballot that isn’t theirs and decides to fill it out and turn it in? 

Maybe someone moved recently and waited to change the address on their voter registration after ballots were sent out.

Once ballots have hit the mail stream, they can’t be removed. The ballots are sent to whatever address is on the voter registration. But Stern said as soon as you update your address through their system or come and vote in person with your ID, they void the other ballot. 

“Even if someone did get their hands on [another ballot] and decided to commit a felony for one additional vote, we would get that back and immediately know it’s a voided ballot and not count it. We’d send that over to the district attorney’s office, and it is going to be dusted for prints, they’re going to look at the signature to see who was trying to vote your ballot illegally,” Stern said. “If we think there’s voter fraud, the DA is taking it very seriously.” 

Now, if you didn’t change your address at all or vote in person and that ballot is never voided and someone decides to turn in a ballot that is not theirs, that’s where the signature verification process comes in. If the signatures don’t match the voter’s records on file, that ballot is not counted until the voter proves who they are and rectifies that. 

Now while you’re filling your ballot in, to make sure is counted, voters should follow instructions carefully. 

There are very clear instructions to fill in your bubbles completely. However, Stern said some people still put x’s or checkmarks which makes it harder for the counting machine to read. 

Additionally, some voters follow directions perfectly but then change their minds, so they scratch it off, and bubble in another one. Stern said the machine is not going to try and interpret that, so in both of those cases the counting machine will kick that ballot out and a bipartisan team of election judges who use a statewide secretary of state voter intent guide will interpret what the voter meant. 

“So, if someone checks all the way through, then we count those votes because clearly, they have a pattern of checking instead of bubbling, if they bubbled solidly all the way through but then on one left a little dot, we’re not going to count that one because we’re gonna assume that’s just an accidental pin being left there. Clearly everywhere else they voted, they voted the entire bubble. So, there’s actually a team of people of election judges of different political parties who are making those determinations,” Stern said.  

A similar process is followed for write-in candidates. A team of both Republicans and Democrats will look at the handwriting and determine what it says because the counting machine, similar to a multiple-choice test reader, can only see the bubbles filled in, not write-in candidates.

Source: Rocky Mountain News