Commentary: Why Is Vote Count Taking So Long?

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, June 13, 2008

The Sacramento county elections office is awash in mail-in ballots. More than 60 thousand were left to count on election day,  many dropped off at the polls.

Each of the mail-in ballots has to be sorted first by ballot type – whether the voter is a democrat or republican, say, or lives in the city and votes in the mayors race or in the unincorporated county and is voting for supervisor only.

A new law requires ballots to be sorted into the county’s 546 precincts too. That makes it possible to know how specific neighborhoods voted.

But even in low turn out elections, precinct sorting adds another three days to the time it takes to process ballots.

Signatures on every mail-in ballot have to be checked against  signatures on file at the registrar’s office.  Ballots are then examined for write-in votes or for double votes or to see if the ballot has been spoiled by coffee stains or if voters voted for one candidate, then crossed out the name and voted for another.

All such ballots are examined again  to determine what the voters true intentions were. If that can be ascertained then workers fill in a new ballot and the remade ballot is run through the counting machine.
All this takes time. And when the vote is close, as in the mayor’s race,  a final tally can take a long long time.


Ginger Rutland writes for the Sacramento Bee Opinion pages.