Town clerks appreciate voters' patience with minor election snags

By Tanya Mitchell | Nov 10, 2012
Source: File image

Northport Town Clerk Jeanine Tucker said that while Tuesday's election brought its share of hiccups due to the first-time use of a ballot-tabulating machine, most residents exhibited patience and understanding throughout the day.

Tucker said this was the first election in which the town had used its new ballot-tabulating machine, and it wasn't long after the polls opened that town staff noticed that the machine wasn't always being cooperative when voters attempted to feed their ballots into the device.

"It was just being picky," said Tucker.

Tucker said the machine would not take the ballots unless they were inserted at a particular angle, and because of that, some voters took advantage of the option of leaving their ballots in an auxiliary box next to the machine. Town staff inserted them into the machine themselves throughout the day, and Tucker said that was the case with about 200 of the total 959 voters who turned out at the polls.

Tucker said that job got a bit easier for town staff as the day wore on, and "after 200 ballots of practice."

The town invested in the machine, said Tucker, in an effort to decrease the amount of time spent counting ballots solely by hand. That would allow the election clerks to finish their work well before the traditional end of an election — in past years, Tucker said, election clerks worked until as late as 3 a.m.

That's because every ballot includes several candidate races, and, Tucker said, there could be up to 48 fields election clerks must count ballots for, and the clerks must also count blank ballots and write-in votes.

"Then they have to count them a second time to confirm the first count," said Tucker. "For anybody who had to hand-count this year, my thoughts are with them."

Tucker said Northport also saw a higher-than-expected voter turnout, with 959 residents coming to cast ballots. In a letter sent to The Republican Journal by Tucker this week, the clerk said she ordered 750 regular ballots, but ended up calling the Secretary of State's Office to obtain permission to issue voters the unused absentee ballots the town still had on hand.

Tucker said voters may have had to wait a bit longer to cast their ballots because of the finicky ballot machine, but overall, residents were understanding about the whole thing.

"For the most part, people accepted that this was a new thing and they were patient," said Tucker.

In Swanville, Town Clerk Helen Christianson said there were a couple of residents who did not appear on the list of registered voters, but she said all who were asked to re-register on Election Day were understanding.

"I was amazed at how patient everyone was," she said, noting there was an especially high voter turnout in town this year.

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