Belfast sees strong voter turnout, technical issues delay official vote tally

City to purchase new machines for next year
By Ben Holbrook | Nov 28, 2012

Belfast — The official tally of the votes cast in balloting during the Nov. 6 election showed strong turnout in the city and technical issues with machines.

City Clerk Denise Beckett said at the City Council meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 20, a total of 4,860 people are registered to vote in Belfast, as opposed to a previous total of 4,512 from Aug. 31. Beckett estimated that at least 75 percent of the total registered voters in the city cast a ballot.

Although Beckett was pleased with the turnout, she said she was disappointed that she was unable to present the official numbers to the City Council sooner. While the machines were processing ballots, some ballots that were filled out properly were being sent to a tray that was supposed only to collect ones that were rejected.

City Manager Joseph Slocum said the issue was discovered as staff members went over the numbers with the state and found that they did not match up with the accounting forms.

“What we eventually learned, as we mathematically went through this new accounting form with the state, was that there is an actual deflection error by our voting machines. The machines sent (deflected) some ballots that were, in fact, counted to a tray inside which was supposed to collect only uncounted ballots,” Slocum wrote in his report.

The ballot machines are 15 years old, and similar problems have occurred during other elections, Slocum said in the report. However, a new ballot machine is available from the state that will reject ballots at the time they are inserted if they are not filled out properly.

If the voter chooses not to fix the ballot, the machine records it as a blank ballot. Slocum said the machines were used in 25 communities as a test and there were no issues. The new ballot machines will be used in Belfast starting next year.

Councilors unanimously approved the tally of official votes cast.

Republican Journal reporter Ben Holbrook can be reached at 338-3333 or at bholbrook@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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