Sunday, November 25, 2007

Cuyahoga Recounts Being Scheduled (from 11/6 election)

As gleaned from some statewide election reform advocates' recent email lists, some citizens are curious about observing election recounts - especially those that contain long, cash-register-like, fragile, DRE paper trails - some of which get damaged in the machines before they even hit the recount (leaving some voters without an official ballot for recount, and thus, leaving some BOE's in a fix of how to reconcile those votes.)

In that stead, and as gleaned from the 11/21/07 CCBOE Election Certification meeting of the 11/6 election, want to let people know that Cuyahoga will be holding 4, and possibly 5 "automatic" recounts in the upcoming week.
An "automatic" recount is mandated if the margin of victory is one half of 1%, or less. This is different from a "requested" recount, where one candidate or issue committee requests the process, and must pay a maximum of $50 per precinct (per last year's HB3, up from $10) of all precincts to be recounted - quite pricey for a countywide election. Cuyahoga has 1436 precincts. Don't know of any "requesteds" yet.

Candidates (and designees of issue committees) are allowed to observe, and bring another witness.
Though I certainly do not speak for the CCBOE, others who want to observe might try calling ahead of time to find the actual times of these recounts, and to seek permission to do so.
In recent past, they have been more than accommodating, and welcoming. But there may be space and/or other concerns they're dealing with. At very least, they need to know whom to expect and to allow an admittance badge into normally restricted counting areas.

I observed the recount of the Strongsville school levy from last August 7. That Sunday, the CCBOE started at about 8am. I left shortly before 6 and they were still finalizing the recount. There were 48 precincts to begin with, and this was this director's first recount. They had written procedures, and were improving them as they carefully worked through the process.

The staff stayed with it...And as the end of the day - things striking us funny - began to hit, Lou Irazarry, head of IT began joking that we needed t-shirts to say - "I Survived the Strongsville Recount."
I was shocked and delighted that at the next board meeting, they presented me with one!

These recounts are long, multi-stepped, tedious processes - if done accurately and well, and with necessary attention to detail, all which Cuyahoga employ.
That's because of the recount-unfriendly tapes for hand counting; the fact that they must upload all memory cards from all machines containing the 3% random selection for hand counting, and also must change to scanning of the paper ballots from that 3%; and they must gather and compare their hand-count totals to the certified vote totals in the tabulator.

In Cuyahoga, they start with a lottery-like, air/vacuum machine with blowing-around ping-pong balls with all included precinct numbers for the particular race. The precinct-balls pop into place in random order. The first "popped" precincts comprising 3% of votes cast in the named race, is what gets hand counted.

They then have to pull all the tapes from machines that could contain those 3% precincts, as well as those precincts' paper ballots and memory cards. Then teams of D's and R's have to go through one tape at a time, to find the race being recounted (if the election had more than one race on the ballot) - and they highlight those...and hand count the votes. Attention is given also to noting and not counting voided ballots; decisions are made how to ascertain the votes on torn, scrunched or otherwise machine-maimed ballots; etc. etc. etc.
In the end, they have to enter the hand-counts into the GEMS tabulator - a clumsy multi-stepped process with GEMS - and compare to tabulator counts, and find and correct discrepancies or do a full hand count.

Obviously, the fewer the precincts, generally, (barring unknowns) the faster the recount.

The dates below are highly approximate right now. Call CCBOE for date/time/necessary permissions: 216-443-3200

Bedford Heights Charter Review Commission -12 precincts - Tuesday, 11/27

N. Royalton Council Ward 6 - 5 precincts -Tuesday, 11/27

Olmsted Falls Council at large- 8 precincts -Wed. 11/28

Solon Bd of Ed -26 precincts -Wed. 11/28

Maybe -Strongsville Board of Ed - 48 precincts (awaiting certified results from Lorain county - split-county school district )

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