Envision Downtown Davis
The June 5th election vote continues!

Why it takes so long to count the vote!

By M E Gladis

Well, first let’s congratulate the Yolo County Election staff! Yolo County was the first of 58 counties to certify the voting outcome. That distinction is due to the office staff and recurring temporary election staff being experienced, professional, and dedicated to counting every vote. These busy staff also courteously greeted and answered numerous questions from the public observers.

In my daily attendance as an observer, including the Tuesday of the week before election when the testing of the scanners was performed I learned why it takes so long to count the vote. I was there on election night to observe the dock where incoming poll materials were delivered. The dock staff stayed until 3:00 a.m. Supervisors stayed later, and all back to work by 8:00 a.m. They intentionally wait another day to process anything that requires astute attention. Staff save and label all items from the Jun 5th election; every ballot, tally sheet, every envelope, every ballot is labeled and saved for 22 months. Also each and every item received by mail or delivery service in the election department is recorded in a log by a front office staff. So the number of Vote By Mail (VBM) ballots that arrive by postal delivery are recorded each day.

Election night after staff processed the poll ballots to inspect the barcodes, the IT staff scanned the poll ballots along with the white VBM envelopes that were received by the election department enough ahead of election night that staff could process and have those VBM ballots ready for scanning, waiting in clear plastic see-through bags with their designation on a large sticker. The few ballots the scanners rejected election night were placed in a tray labeled for later duplication.

On the dock election night the poll ballots arrive in a see-through blue plastic bag with a large sized number displayed which represents the consolidated district (con). That number is called out for a staff at the table to check off among the 96 cons. Under that bag is a valise on wheels that holds large envelopes sorted by white VBM envelopes, pink Provisional envelopes, and blank unused con poll ballots. The content of these large envelopes are reconciled in the next two or three days, so the valises are set aside on election night.

So where do you place 96 cons of at least three large bulging envelops each? Around the 10 foot table along the edges of the room and down the hallways in stacked cardboard open-top boxes whose contents were inventoried and entered on forms.

It’s obvious that the supervisor of this reconciliation has been at it for a while. She knows where to look for items. She knows when to ask for help in her search. She is fastidious in resolving an accurate count. There is a record of what they issued to each con. They know how many poll ballots went through the scanners from each con. In a word,“success” is within reach. At any glitch several hands go to great lengths to solve the problem. They do not proceed until the problem is resolved.

Eventually all the large envelopes from all 96 polls are folded in labeled boxes for storage. All voted envelopes are in stacked trays awaiting processing. The extra con blank voter cards are place in numerous crates.

At the point where all cons are reconciled, they move towards processing. Whenever the trays of envelopes are moved the staff receiving the tray counts the ballots to verify its count with the noted number.

First many hands strip off the 18,000+ signature cover of the VBM envelopes. Blue envelopes represent the 42 rural districts which have no polling place.They must vote by mail and have a postage paid envelope to mail. White envelopes are from voters who have a polling place and request a VBM ballot.

Next the barcode of the voter is entered into the computer by wand. Staff enters by wand both from the VBM ballots and from the poll voter roster. If the barcode is compromised the number must be hand entered. As this task is inching forward,

each tray of envelopes entered is taken to staff who verify signatures with those in the system on Voter Registration Cards (VRC) or DMV records. If there are loops or squiggles that match then the signature is verified. Once verified staff initials the envelope and stripes a red line on it.

Then those trays of VBM ballots in signature-validated envelopes are delivered to the processors who take six or so of the trays and sort them into cons with strips of paper standing up to designate the place of the con. Of course there is a count. When all six trays are in order the processors take a tray to a table and in pairs, first one staff counts the envelopes (checking to match the tally number) into two piles. Each of the pair take one pile and the processing continues. Open the envelope, pull out the ballot, place the envelope in a pile to be rubber-banded together and saved in a box of similar envelopes. Staff tear off the strip when left on the voter card at the top and save them. They put these strips in one of the envelopes of that con. These eight or ten recurring temporary election staff rotate pair members daily.

It is the procedure of the processing pair to work with one con at a time. Unfold the ballot and inspect the barcodes on both edges on both sides of both cards. Inspection is determining that the scanner can accept the barcodes. If compromised by the voter folding an inch over its end before placing the ballot in its envelope, or if there is food or make-up on the barcode, or if the ink of the barcode is compromised, then a duplicate ballot will be made by the pair of processors.

The pair stacks the ballots needing duplication separately from the scanner ready ballots they have inspected and stacked elsewhere on their table. These ballots are from the same con. So one of the pair pulls the required A and B cards for that con from the supply of blank voter ballots for the 96 cons that are on the floor in numerous crates in rows and columns with cons separated in each crate by red paper sheets. Staff bend and stretch out their arms to reach for their specific A and B cards.

The member who pulls the con voter cards hands them to their partner who checks that they are the right voter cards. There is a sign-out sheet for the voter cards where staff enter subsequent numbers to the last entry and initial that duplicationtrackingsheet. Attheirtableeachstaffwritestheduplicationnumber on the original ballot, or on the duplicate ballot to be filled out, and on the con tally sheet. They date and each partner initials the tally form and the original and duplicate ballot. The pair always has one member call out the votes and the other member always writes with black marker the vote. If an error occurs they write “spoiled” in large black letters and fold the ballot in half. They immediately start over the duplication of that voter card.

As the pair finishes the duplication, the original ballot cards go in a clear plastic bag on a specific table that has a label “DUPED.” The duplicated ballots with the scanner ready ballots are placed into a clear plastic bag horizontally and the plastic is folded over and held with a sticker that both processors have initialed. That plastic bag is placed on a sturdy cart with other scanner ready ballots in their plastic bags with labels of con and signatures.

When a partner is unavailable there are one-person tasks. One such duty is putting in alphabetic order those VBM envelopes returned by the Post Office because people moved. There were approximately 5500 such envelopes. The supervisor mentioned that four people who contacted the election office about not receiving their ballot were found in the alphabetized set. VBM ballots are not to be forwarded, though the Post Office must have forwarded some to voters who offered their out-of-county address on theYolo County ballot.

There is one wand to scan the VBM envelopes. So one staff continues to enter the VBM voters into the system by wand, or by hand as needed. Signature verification proceeds. Trays move and counts are made and cons are sorted and counted and then counted and processed by pairs of staff. Duplications continue to be made.

Ballots must be clean and crisp and flattish cards for the scanner to read/accept them. The vote counting will continue!

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