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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Ind. Gov't. - "Around the state, sympathy for Monroe County clerk — but much quicker election results"

The Bloomington Herald-Times ($$$) has a good process story today, reported by Laura Lane, on absentee ballot counting in not only Monroe County, but Tippecanoe County and Delaware County, homes respectively of Indiana, Purdue, and Ball State universities. Brown and Greene counties are also discussed. A few quotes from the long story:

The tedious process of hand counting hundreds and thousands of absentee ballots can hold up final election results.

Beth Mulry and Susan Fowler sympathize with fellow county clerk Linda Robbins, who on Wednesday afternoon still faced boxes and boxes containing 10,000 absentee ballots that had not yet been counted.

Final Monroe County vote totals remained a mystery. Counting and cross-checking continued into Friday evening.

Mulry, the clerk of Brown County, said election workers there started counting 2,159 absentee ballots at noon Election Day and finished just as the polls closed at 6 p.m. In Greene County, where Fowler is the clerk, workers processed about 1,200 absentee ballots between 11 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. the day of the election.

Mulry got Brown County’s election wrapped up by 10:15 p.m. “We’d still be counting if we had as many absentees as Monroe County,” she said. “I cannot fathom the number of people it would take to get it done on time.”

Brown County has used paper ballots and scanners since the early 1990s, although there is an electronic machine at each polling site for voters who want to use it.

Fowler and Greene County election workers were finished counting votes at 8 o’clock and would have been done 30 minutes earlier if not for a delay in Beech Creek Township. “I was in bed by 9:30 Election Night,” Fowler said. The county has used MicroVote electronic machines since 2004.

Since absentee ballots cannot be counted until after the mail arrives on Election Day, their volume can contribute to how quickly election results are compiled. The purpose of waiting until Election Day to tabulate them is to weed out any early ballots submitted by people who voted but died before the official election was held.

When Mulry gets notification of a death from the health department or if a family member brings in a death certificate for someone who voted early, she reports that to the local election board for permission to pull the ballot. There were none this year.

Fowler, in Greene County, also waits for death notifications from the health department. But in a rural county where she knows a lot of people, confirmation of a death might come from actually attending a voter’s wake or funeral. “If I know for sure that someone died and that they already voted, I would go ahead and take that ballot out,” she said.

[More] An editorial today in the Herald-Times, titled "We should all agree: Election process broken," concludes:
So can’t we all just agree, calmly, that we have a significant problem? Let’s admit that and take the next 18 months before the 2014 primary to restore order and confidence.

County officials first must itemize the issues that led the the latest delays. It’s likely they will come up with a long list, which they should work through one item at a time beginning as soon in 2013 as possible.

Here are three issues for starters.

The equipment apparently had significant limitations. Is different equipment needed? If so, what equipment would allow us to get an accurate count earlier? And are the paper ballots really necessary?

The state law on dead voters was cited as one of the problems. Should the law be changed? If that would help, current Monroe County commissioner and soon to be State Sen. Mark Stoops could take up the issue in the Legislature.

Is it the best idea to have more than 21,000 early and absentee voters? If so, and we believe it is, how can counting those votes start earlier — so the counting can end earlier?

We truly hope Democrats and Republicans alike recognize the last two general elections have produced unacceptable delays in counting votes, and that they join together to develop solutions while there’s plenty of time to avoid a third straight meltdown of our election process.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on November 11, 2012 07:04 PM
Posted to Indiana Government