When Douglas County Election Commissioner Brian Kruse tells election officials from other states how votes are counted in Nebraska’s largest county, the responses vary. “Oh, that’s painful,” is one response. “How long did you work?” is another. “We like to say, ‘Well, 26 hours, but we loved every minute of it,’” Kruse told members of the Nebraska Legislature’s Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee during a hearing Thursday. In Douglas County, all of the ballots are brought to a central location and tallied. Kruse compared that with Birmingham, Alabama, where votes on election night are tallied at the precincts and results are reported in about four hours.
There’s still hope for automated elections in 2016. The Commission on Elections (Comelec) said that if it pushed through with the bidding for the lease of 23,000 optical mark reader (OMR) machines, the 2016 balloting could still be automated even if the Supreme Court junked with finality its deal with longtime technology partner Smartmatic to repair the 80,000 precinct count optical scan (PCOS) units. “If we push through with the bidding now, we will have 23,000 (OMR) machines. So we can do it. It can be done. It’s really just a question of how you’re going to marshal your resources,” said Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez in an interview with reporters on Friday. The Comelec is currently conducting a public bidding for the lease of the 23,000 OMR units set to be used to supplement the 81,000 PCOS machines, whose repair by Smartmatic under a P268.8-million contract with the election body has been stopped by the Supreme Court last week.
Pima County will no longer make use of precinct scanners at polling locations after the Pima County Board of Supervisors rejected a measure to spend $1.8 million to replace them. The board’s decision came despite a recommendation by Pima County Election Integrity Commission (PCEIC) to keep the scanners in place since they allow for an electronic count at polling locations, serving as a way to double check ballots when they are tallied in the central count system. Bill Beard, District 1 PCEIC representative called the board’s decision frustrating, particularly since he says Pima County has a poor track record with handling elections in the past. “If the board is truly concerned about the matter, perhaps actually listening to the advisers they appointed to advise them on thing elections-related might be a good place to start,” he said, also noting that District 1’s Ally Miller was the only supervisor to vote in favor of the PCEIC’s recommendation to keep scanners in place.