Hand Recount Underway In Ca
The election may be over, but the work goes on for county registrars around California. Under state law, they must count, by hand, the ballots from one percent of their precincts.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
It’s a slow, meticulous job.
A team of four election workers sits in the sparsely furnished back room of the Yolo county-clerk recorders office. They’re tallying up a portion of the votes for the West Sacramento mayor’s race.
The election workers are examining the markings on each individual ballot. Yolo County uses optical scan machines which read squares that have been colored-in by the voters. The workers will compare their results to those compiled electronically by the voting machines.
Overseeing the process is Yolo County Clerk-Recorder Freddie Oakley, who says the hand recount has caught mistakes in the past:
We have discovered tiny discrepancies. Usually we are able to look at the ballots and say, aha, the machine did not pick up that mark because it was too faint, or aha, the machine saw this mark and thought it was a vote.
The manual recount won’t make a difference in this race; Incumbent Mayor Christopher Cabaldon was handily re-elected. The recount will only confirm the results.
This scene is not a common one. California is one of only 12 states with a law requiring a hand recount of votes, according to Kim Alexander with the non-partisan California Voter Foundation.
This has been the law in California since 1965, it dates all the way back to when punch cards first started being used and people asked the same questions then they asked now, which is, why should we trust the secret software to count our precious votes?
Until 2004, only four states had mandated manual recounts. But with the spread of electronic voting, Alexander says more lawmakers are becoming concerned about possible errors in the vote count. California is more open than other states with its recount, because the public is allowed to watch. Alexander says not many people know that:
The manual count is basically the one and only window that the public has into the vote counting process. In a time when we’re relying increasingly on software in the voting process, it’s imperative the public have an opportunity to see with their own eyes that the vote count is accurate.
Starting next year, the recount will get additional publicity in California. Under new state legislation, counties will have to give a five day notice before the tally gets underway. The hope is more citizens will take part in the vote verification process.