The Sept. 17 election, while yielding a number of runoff races, also continued a sense of uncertainty, a sense that needs to disappear before the Oct. 15 runoff election where five positions, including the mayor, will be decided.
That sense of uncertainty -- created by glitches discovered during early voting and again on Election Day -- need to be dealt with and not by our local board. It obviously doesn’t have the technical expertise to assure that voters are getting the correct ballots. There is a programming error that needs to be discovered and fixed.
Board representatives assured the public the errors were fixed when 17 voters were discovered to have cast ballots for the wrong candidates.
That assurance came again after another 29 voters voted for candidates that could not represent them. On Sept. 13, three days before Election Day, a total of 90 voters had been given the wrong ballot. We were told again that the problems had been fixed. Wrong.
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From our reports, voters who saw they were given the wrong ballot on Election Day and reported it to poll workers were greeted with astonished disbelief that the ballot could be wrong and that somehow, it was the voters at fault. Certainly, that happens. People regularly head to the wrong precinct, particularly after reapportionment, but in this case, the poll workers should have bent over backward in a genuine effort to get it right knowing of the earlier issues.
So what can the board do to make sure it gets it right Oct. 15? Nothing short of a full audit will do. The Secretary of State’s office should come in and help correct the obvious programming problems. The bugs need to be discovered and fixed before another ballot is issued.
The audit should explain, in plain English, what went wrong in the programming and the steps taken to fix it. One candidate, Robert Abbott, is mulling over whether he should challenge the results in court. He missed the runoff by 65 votes.
On another issue there is an easy fix. Election night, the board reported 40 of 40 precincts reporting. What it did not specifically announce, until late, was that the totals did not include more than 9,000 absentee and early voting ballots. Initially, one mayoral candidate and a district candidate conceded the election and told their supporters to go home.
There are rules governing the handling and counting of absentee and early voting ballots, but tabulation, at least of mailed absentee ballots, can start as early as 7 a.m. on Election Day, under specific guidelines. Wouldn’t it make sense to start counting those votes early instead of waiting for the precinct votes to arrive and be counted?