The election season may be over for voters, but for local poll workers in Greenwich, an audit of votes from District 2 called for a hand–recount of 1,685 individual ballots, which took over four hours to complete.
Five percent of statewide polling places that use optical scan machines are subject to audit, as prescribed by Connecticut law. Of the 747 polling places that used the optical scan machine on Election Day in the state, 38 primary and 31 alternative locations were randomly chosen for the audit, including Greenwich’s District 2 location at Town Hall.
“We purposely wait more than two weeks so that the election has already been certified,” said Greenwich’s Republican registrar of voters, Fred DeCaro III. “The job of the audit is to ensure that the tabulator is reading the votes correctly.”
Since the process started taking place in 2007, Greenwich has been chosen every year except one for an audit. Up until this year, the law mandated that 10 percent of optical scan machines be tested.
“We’re used to it because of the odds,” says DeCaro.
Five groups of two people each (one Republican and one Democrat per table) sat and organized bundles of 25 ballots until there were 68 piles of recounted votes. Ballots were categorized as “undisputed” or “questionable.” The audit was able to determine that a handful of votes cast on Election Day were filled out incompletely or incorrectly.
According to DeCaro, there wasn’t a significant enough ratio of errors for the registrar of voters to track down the votes.
The 11 “questionable” votes were noted out of the bunch, their questionability most often due to failure to a voter’s follow instructions.
“They could have made a check mark, drawn an ‘X’ through it, or may have not filled the oval completely,” said DeCaro. “We pulled those out as ballots that could have affected the total and possibly as ones that the machine did not count correctly.”
DeCaro recalled one ballot this year that circled the entire Republican row without filling in any ovals.
“None of these votes got counted,” he said. “Typically, you see those in absentee ballots, but that’s okay. With an absentee ballot, they are to be hand-inspected, since the voter is not there to be sure we understand the intent of the voter.”
But if a voter puts an erroneous ballot through the tabulator, the Premier Accuvote OS, it will accept it, because it’s programmed to tally ballots that don’t have every specific vote filled in.
Similarly, for those who cast their vote for a write-in candidate, a rare mistake would be forgetting to fill in the oval signifying your vote is indeed a write-in. Without it, there would be no indication to look for the written in name.
Of the 37 recorded write-in votes in District 2, none experienced that problem this election.
Of the 839 votes the tabulators recorded for Hillary Clinton in the district, the hand count revealed 832 undisputed votes and five more tallied as questionable for the former Democratic nominee.
President-elect Donald Trump received 689 votes in the district according to the tabulator, but after careful inspection, there turned out to be 690 undisputed votes and three more labeled as questionable for the Republican.
The results of the audits will be analyzed by the University of Connecticut, the Secretary of the State’s office and the State Elections Enforcement Commission, and then will be made available to the public.
According to a release from Denise Merrill, the Secretary of State, Connecticut boasts one of the strictest audit statutes in the country.
“Connecticut should be proud to have some of the most stringent audit laws in the country,” said Merrill in the release. “In an election year that saw various entities attempt to sow the seeds of doubt in the process, this state can be assured that all possible safeguards are in place to count every vote. Whether it is Election Day Registration, online voter registration or our meticulous audit process, the rights of the voter are our highest priority in Connecticut.”
Even with the results of the election already known by the first week of December, the diligent poll workers still find a way to make the long, but necessary, process into a mini-contest between the five teams.
Since the stacks of 25 votes are double-checked by another “team,” the groups of two are assigned a point for each mistake found in their own originally counted batch.
Just like the general election, errors were made, but were also balanced out with the cautious study from another pair of bipartisan eyes.
The “Smart Girls” team tallied no mistakes, and were crowned the winners after a lengthy process.
On Friday, Town Hall will host Poll Worker Appreciation Day to celebrate the downswing of another election cycle with candidates from the ballot thanking them for their hard work. The Registrars of Voters was also recognized as the 2016-17 “Team of the Year” in Greenwich municipal government.
“The audit really completes the whole cycle,” said DeCaro. “It is nice to have a little more breathing room going into 2017.”