More than 2,900 double votes were cast during municipal elections in York County due to a voting machine programming error. County officials said at first that the issue did not appear to affect the outcome of any races. But if vote tallies provided by the county are correct, the West York Borough Council contest might have been impacted. West York Councilwoman Shelley Metzler finished fifth of six candidates vying for four seats. But she might have placed fourth – and secured another term – if she had received enough of the 32 “over votes” cast in the council race, a closer review by WITF/Keystone Crossroads found.
It’s the nightmare scenario nobody wants to discuss: an election night result for Florida governor that’s so close it demands a recount. “Oh, no, the R-word,” said Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley. “It’s going to be a close one. We’re ready.” It’s Florida. Anything can happen. With polls showing Gov. Rick Scott and Charlie Crist in a virtual deadlock, both sides are making plans in case of a stalemate next week. Republicans and Democrats would mobilize armies of lawyers in a frantic search for ballots, triggering memories of the agonizing and chaotic five-week Florida recount that followed the 2000 presidential election. “Expect the unexpected,” said Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Kathy Dent.
The most extensive recount in modern Virginia political history will involve tens of thousands of people statewide to determine the state’s next attorney general. The recount begins Monday in Fairfax County and the cities of Alexandria and Chesapeake before moving to every jurisdiction in the state on Tuesday and Wednesday. Those three localities get a head start because of the extensive hand counting of ballots entailed in their recount or simply the sheer number of ballots and machines to be checked, which is the case in Fairfax County. A three-judge recount court will convene on Thursday in Richmond to rule on challenged ballots that emerge from the re-tabulation. Democrat Mark Herring should know by Friday if his 165-vote edge holds or if Republican Mark Obenshain has picked up enough votes to surpass his fellow state senator —or closed it sufficiently to take it one step further. Obenshain’s camp has signaled the recount might not be the candidate’s last gasp. They could play a rare, little-used card, taking the race to the General Assembly as a contested election and letting the Republican-majority body decide the race or call for a new election.
In the upcoming recount of Virginia’s attorney general election results, Chesapeake’s 61,000 paper ballots must be tallied manually, the state Board of Elections has told city officials. The reason, according to Chesapeake General Registar William “Al” Spradlin, is that the city’s optical scanning equipment cannot segregate ballots that were undervoted – didn’t vote in all races – or overvoted – voted for too many candidates. Instructions from a three-judge panel overseeing the recount indicated those ballots must be singled out for examination, Spradlin said. Democrat Mark Herring was certified with a victory of 165 votes out of 2.2 million cast in the Nov. 5 election, close enough for his opponent, Republican Mark Obenshain, to request the recount.
Virginia elections officials say some voting equipment used in the November election doesn’t meet state requirements. State Board of Elections chairman Charles E. Judd said that there should be uniformity in the election process. “This vast diversity of equipment in the state is problematic,” Judd said. “We should have two kinds of equipment and not 10 or 12 kinds around the state. We should have some uniformity so it applies to the code and it makes it more efficient.” Judd and other board members discussed the issue Monday during a meeting, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.
State elections officials expressed concern Monday that some of the voting equipment used in November balloting is outdated and does not meet requirements under state law. Don Palmer, secretary of the State Board of Elections, said at a board meeting that some of the voting machines are not able to flag overvotes or undervotes, which would allow those ballots to be inspected manually. Republican Mark D. Obenshain hopes that the proper count of such ballots in the upcoming recount will sway the election result of the attorney general’s race, in which Democrat Mark R. Herring was certified the winner by 165 votes. An undervote would be one in which a selection would be made in at least one race, but not others. Overvotes include ballots in which two candidates were originally marked for a race, but one was crossed out. “The code requires in a recount situation that undervotes, overvotes and write-ins be rejected so they can be analyzed personally by the recount teams and observers of each party,” Palmer said. If there is a dispute over a particular ballot — meaning if the voter’s intention isn’t immediately clear — it would go to the recount court in Richmond, a panel of three judges headed by Richmond Circuit Court Judge Beverly W. Snukals.
Virginia: Alexandria to Hand Count All Paper Ballots in Recount For Attorney General | Connection Newspapers
Alexandria election officials will be going back to the future in the next few weeks, pouring over thousands of paper ballots by hand as part of a recount effort in the hotly contested race for attorney general. Although other jurisdictions with paper ballots will be reprogramming their scanners for the recount, election officials say the Hart InterCivic machines currently in use in Alexandria and Charlottesville have some key limitations that prevent them from being reprogrammed. “It’s not like that would happen in a split second by feeding them through the machine,” said Deputy Registrar Anna Lieder. “So we are prepared to do a hand count if that’s what’s required.” Election officials say the Hart InterCivic machines have two problems that would lead to a hand recount of all paper ballots. One is that the scanners must be able to conduct a recount for the race in question without also doing a recount for all the other races on the ballot, one of the limitations of the brand purchased by city officials. Another problem is that the scanners must be able to separate ballots where the voter has written in a name and under vote ballots, where no vote was registered for the attorney general race. Election officials say the stack of undervote ballots are likely to include a number of ballots where a voter may have written the name of a candidate or marked it in a way that was not picked up by the electronic scanner. “All these scanning devices have benefits and drawbacks,” said Lieder. “These are much more precise and easier to mark in the initial voting process.”
Virginia: Election official questions Attorney General tally, Republican has hope in recount | Examiner
A law championed by Democrat Creigh Deeds could give Republican Mark Obenshain the tools to erase Mark Herring’s 165-vote margin in Virgina’s attorney general’s race, Watchdog.org reported. Deeds, who lost the AG contest to Bob McDonnell in 2005 by 360 votes, subsequently authored legislation requiring all optical scan ballots be re-run in the event of a recount, and that ballots containing write-in votes, undervotes or overvotes be hand-counted. In 2005, the ballots were only re-run in precincts that had identified problems. “This is new territory for Virginia and a margin well within the range in which recounts have changed the vote lead,” Obenshain spokesman Paul Logan said.
Florida: Lines, scanner problems greet early voters in Volusia County Florida | News-JournalOnline.com
Early voting started Saturday in Volusia and Flagler counties, and to say the least, lines were long. In Flagler, 2,172 residents cast their ballots on Saturday, according to Flagler County’s elections website. Results for Volusia were not immediately available from supervisor of elections Ann McFall or on the Volusia website. At some early voting sites in Volusia County, lines were longer than expected, but not solely because of residents’ desire to vote. “We had scanner failures all over the county,” Mary Garber, a poll watcher with Florida Fair Elections Coalition, said.
The voting machine that cast between 50,000 and 60,000 extra votes for New York gubernatorial candidates in November has a bug that causes it to misread some ballots and add additional votes to others when the machine itself overheats, according to a review by the state Board of Election. All of the so-called “over-votes” were thrown out after election workers reported an unrealistic spike in the number of votes from the machine, from manufacturer Election Systems and Software (ES&S), which apparently overheated during the hour or so the polling location was closed for lunch. In 2010 NYC’s City Board of Elections decided to replace its old lever-driven voting machines, that required voters to flip a lever to register their choices with a newer model from ES&S. Rather than flipping a lever, voters fill in oval spaces on paper ballots, then scan the ballots into the voting machine to register their choices. The machine counts votes automatically; the stored paper ballots remain serve as the source for recounts or backups for lost votes.
The New York State Board of Elections, New York City Boards of Elections, and voting machine manufacturer ES&S each released reports yesterday detailing the results of an investigation into the abnormally high numbers of lost votes attributed to “overvoting” in the South Bronx in 2010. The upshot is that a machine defect led to “phantom votes” on at least one machine used in the 2010 election, resulting in some candidates receiving more votes than they should have, and the choices of many more voters being voided when the machines detected both actual and phantom votes in the same contest. Now that the reports on how this happened are out, election officials must make sure that what happened in the Bronx in 2010 does not happen again in the future. Voting machines record overvotes when they detect more than one candidate selected for a contest. In such cases, no vote is recorded for any candidate in the overvoted contest, regardless of the voter’s actual intent. The Brennan Center first uncovered a high number of overvotes in the South Bronx while reviewing documents produced for discovery in a litigation it brought against the State and City. It published its findings in Design Deficiencies and Lost Votes; the report notes that in some election districts up to 40% of the votes cast did not count.
On Election Day 2000, tens of thousands of Floridians accidentally marked their ballots in ways that could not be read by the state’s voting machines. Their votes didn’t count. The identity of our next president hung in the balance for 36 days.
To prevent the Florida debacle from repeating, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act in 2002. The law required states to upgrade their voting machines. Voting machines must now warn voters and give them an opportunity to correct their ballot if they determined there was an “overvote,” the invalid selection of more than one candidate, on the ballot.
This technological fix was supposed to make these kinds of lost votes a thing of the past. Although there is no reliable nationwide data on the number of overvotes in recent elections, it is likely that the voting-machine changes mandated by HAVA have substantially reduced overvoting. But the HAVA requirements haven’t been enough to prevent votes from being lost — sometimes in staggering numbers — in recent elections.