Routt County Clerk: Setbacks just a part of election process
November 6, 2010
Steamboat Springs — With a process as complicated as ballot counting, it's impossible to avoid setbacks altogether, Routt County Clerk and Recorder Kay Weinland said.
"Every time, there are things that come up," Weinland said. "We have to be flexible and work through them. The important thing is getting the results as accurate and as timely as possible and maintain the integrity throughout."
Weinland said that is exactly what the election team did.
As of Friday afternoon, election officials had counted 4,410 mail-in ballots, 1,962 early votes and 3,006 Election Day votes. Not including provisional ballots, which have yet to be tallied, the about 9,400 voters accounted for about 71 percent voter turnout.
The last midterm election saw only 50 percent, Weinland said.
More votes meant a busy night for election officials and volunteer election judges.
"We had an extremely busy day," Weinland said about Tuesday. "People were changing addresses that had moved prior to the election, and people wanted to know where they had to go to vote … it was intense."
Lines at the polling centers were minimal, but a hang-up with the counting process did occur several hours after the polls closed.
Catherine Carson, Routt County Democrats chairwoman, was acting as a poll-watching captain into the "wee hours" of Wednesday.
She said there were imaging processing problems with the paper ballot scanners late Tuesday. It required many mail-in ballots be rescanned, delaying election results by a few hours. The Steamboat Pilot & Today received results at about 2:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Weinland said the scanners now are fine, and she doubts the situation would crop up again. However, she said officials are working with the machines' vendor, Hart, on the issue.
Carson said the problem was addressed on election night; however, she added that she would recommend that a specialist from Hart be on hand on election night, as has been the case in past years.
"There's nothing that jeopardized the integrity in the counting," Carson said about election night issues. "As far as the ultimate tallying, it appears to be correct.
"In my personal opinion, the highest priority is accuracy, but if results were delayed by a little, it's not a huge problem."
Processes in place
The scanning issue came on top of another computer error — made public two weeks ago — that required most of the mail-in ballots be replicated by teams of bipartisan volunteers because they were rendered unreadable.
Routt County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak was part of the team of volunteers that copied ballots, and she praised the system in place to replicate the unreadable ballots.
She said she was proud of the volunteer response from the community.
"I think considering the circumstances, our clerk's office did an admirable job," Stahoviak said. "I thought things went fairly well."
Despite the two glitches, Weinland said it was a fairly smooth night, and it's not the first time results have been posted after 2 a.m.
"We've pulled all-nighters before," she said. "We remain flexible. You never know."
Stahoviak agreed that sometimes glitches are impossible to avoid, but the integrity of the response to those issues is what's important.
"Everybody's human, and mistakes happen. The lesson is how you deal with it once it happens, and what it is you put in place to secure the voter confidence and make sure the votes are counted the way the voter intended to vote. And that absolutely occurred."
The election isn't finished for the clerk's office.
Weinland said a standard auditing procedure is scheduled for Nov. 17, and the results cannot be certified until the audit is complete.