Questions Surround Ballot Counting

program date: 
Tue, 11/04/2008

Ballot Counting at the Elections OfficeI noticed earlier today that Oregon is one of the few States that has yet to report more than 90% of its precincts. It would appear that 150,000 ballots, which would easily decide the Smith/Merkly Senate race in favor of (D) Merkly, have yet to be counted at the crucial Multnomah (liberal Portland) County elections division.

I called Multnomah County Elections at 2:05 PM to ask what had caused the delay in counting approximately 150,000 ballots. I first talked to someone named Kathy, who could not give me her last name. When I asked more specifically what was delaying the counting of the ballots, she said "we're counting them."

"Counting them by hand?" I asked

She then transferred me to Eric Sample's (County supervisor's) voice mail.  I then called again immediately, and got a male voice. I identified myself as "Theresa Mitchell, KBOO Public Affairs" (forgive me). I asked why there was a delay in counting 150,000 ballots.

"Water got in the basement," he said.

"Water got on 150,000 ballots?"

He then transferred me without comment to Eric Sample's voice mail.

This station uses ES&S and has a few Diebold screens for handicap usage.

Frankly, I do not feel the procedure is going legitimately.

(In a subsequent call with someone identified at Tim) I wanted to know what had delayed the count of the ballots for several hours this morning. Hours is plenty of time to alter ballots or jimmy registration to read ballots falsely.

He says that their 6 ES&S tabulators each run something more than a thousand ballots each per hour. (Speaking as a former printing trainer, that sounds VERY slow.) He says that the first shift of workers for the tabulation got in at 9AM, and then proceeded to remove boxes of ballots from the first floor to another area, along with the tabulators, in order to avoid a sewer spill. (Other information has been that there is no water on the floor there). He says that the ES&S machines normally work faster, but the folds in the ballots were different and thus slowing things down.

He asked how I came up with the original number of 150,000 ballots uncounted, and I said that I had deduced that number from the final in-ballot count (360K+) minus the listed processed ballots (at 9AM I think there were around 210K). He asked that twice.

Here are their latest figures:

RUN TIME:06:10 PM November 4, 2008

BALLOTS Counted - TOTAL. . . . . . . 240,498


United States Senator

           Gordon H Smith (REP).  .  .  .  .  .  .    67,097   29.03

           Jeff Merkley (DEM)  .  .  .  .  .  .  .   154,482   66.84

           Dave Brownlow (CON) .  .  .  .  .  .  .     8,705    3.77

           WRITE-IN.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .       847     .37

Given the desperate need of the GOP to hold this Senate seat for Smith, I am inclined to look askance at any delay. Certainly it is reasonable to avoid getting ballots wet, but as I have written here, there is some question as to whether they needed to be moved. I asked about the chain of custody and was assured it was all kept in-house; but ballots can migrate, historically have in fact, and machines can be re-calibrated in such opportunities. Jenka of KBOO Radio told me at one point that she had been told by Mult. Co. elections that the counting could take 30 days! Did our sudden pointed interest change something?

So if the ballot count comes out as it should (thousands for Merkly as reflecting the rabidly liberal base at that particular site), I'll have no qualms, and congratulate myself for exerting proper civic vigilance. It those votes don't drown Smith's chances, I will consider myself to have been duped.


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