What exactly kept Minnehaha County from reporting election totals for 14 hours in the last general election, and how should the auditor’s office make sure it never happens again? The seven-member panel appointed to answer those questions reviewed the issues again Friday as it spent more than two hours on the matter with several issues brought up. Earlier questions on problems with the machines that counted the votes, and froze on election night, had been put to the manufacturer, but it did not respond until an hour before this meeting and did not address what happened on election night. The machines apparently were too sensitive, rejecting ballots with stray marks as “overvotes.” Pennington County had the same problem during the election, said its county auditor, Julie Pearson, but only briefly. It was fixed with a simple adjustment to the equipment. Making that change eliminated the rejection of ballots with hesitation marks.
One of Minnehaha County’s $110,000 voting machines froze up Friday during a demonstration for the Election Review Commission. Twice. The freezes could have been a metaphor for the election night woes that kept the state’s largest county from reporting election results until 14 hours after the polls closed: Nothing went as smoothly as promised. The speedy new machines — one of which broke down for 45 minutes on election night — were meant to help the county avoid a repeat of 2012’s last-in-the-state reporting. But they proved too sensitive, rejecting ballots with tiny marks in the wrong place as “overvotes.” Drops of coffee, food stains and light pencil marks caused rejection, too, forcing resolution boards to recreate and rule on 600 total ballots. They also went down for 45 minutes on election night.
Virginia: On first day of Attorney General race recount, Herring increases lead over Obenshain | Richmond Times-Dispatch
On the first day of the recount in the state’s tight race for attorney general, Democrat Mark R. Herring, the certified winner of the Nov. 5 election, had widened his lead over Republican Mark D. Obenshain to 305 votes, up from 165. “We saw significant growth in the margin of the Herring victory today; frankly, greater than we initially anticipated,” Herring’s legal counsel Marc Elias said Tuesday evening. “We expect to maintain or increase this margin as the recount expands to additional jurisdictions tomorrow.” Fairfax County and the cities of Alexandria and Chesapeake a head start on the attorney general election recount. See pictures from the recount. Fairfax County and the cities of Alexandria and Chesapeake got a head start Monday on the recount, with the state’s remaining localities following today. In Fairfax, Virginia’s largest county, recount officers are reviewing a total of 300,000 optical scan paper ballots. All ballots rejected by the tabulators — write-ins, undervotes and overvotes, in many cases — will be reviewed and counted by hand.
A recount of the votes in the Virginia attorney general’s race will begin Dec. 16, but a number of jurisdictions, including Alexandria, are facing hand recounts thanks to voting machines considered outdated by the state’s electoral board. Only 165 votes of more than 2.2 million cast separate Democrat Mark R. Herring and Republican Mark D. Obenshain — a 0.007 percent difference that amounts to the closest finish to a race in Virginia history. A three-judge recount court in Richmond on Wednesday announced the process would begin Dec. 17 and 18 for a majority of the state’s voting districts, though Fairfax County, the state’s largest district, was given the go-ahead to begin its recount a day earlier, on Dec. 16. Donald Palmer, secretary of the Virginia State Board of Elections, said officials would prefer the ballots be tabulated by optical scanners. In some cases, though, jurisdictions use machines that can’t isolate just one of the races that appeared on the ballot — in this case, the attorney general’s race.
Tests on an electronic voting machine that recorded shockingly high numbers of extra votes in the 2010 election show that overheating may have caused upwards of 30 percent of the votes in a South Bronx voting precinct to go uncounted. WNYC first reported on the issue in December 2011, when it was found that tens of thousands of votes in the 2010 elections went uncounted because electronic voting machines counted more than one vote in a race.
Philadelphia city commissioners are investigating an unusual series of over-votes in last year’s primary election – 83 voting divisions citywide where the official vote totals were bigger than the recorded number of voters who showed up. In most locations, the discrepancies were small, just a handful of votes. In many instances, minor procedural mistakes could account for the anomalies. But so far, the bulk of the over-voting has not been explained. Until they understand what happened, the commissioners say, they cannot rule out the possibility of deliberate, illegal efforts to run up votes for favored candidates, with the perpetrators losing count as they tried to cover their tracks. In a situation like that, the tiny numbers of over-votes might be red flags for a much larger problem with the underlying vote totals.