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Manual ballot counting a slow but deliberate process

Election board employees, in groups of four, counted off votes Wednesday for either candidate of last week's sheriff's race in Oklahoma County while representatives for each party watched.
BY ZEKE CAMPFIELD zcampfield@opubco.com Published: November 15, 2012
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To hand count the votes Wednesday, Oklahoma County Election Board officials delivered cardboard boxes of ballots one precinct at a time to tables staffed by four counters.

One person lifted the ballot and read off the name of the candidate who received the vote; one person collected the ballot in a new pile; and two across the table marked the tally for each candidate.

Behind them at each table sat two observers: a Republican supporter of Darrell Sorrels and a Democratic supporter of John Whetsel.

When a ballot was contested by an observer or questioned by the counters, the county election board's secretary, Doug Sanderson, would present the ballot, and his opinion, before the election board. The board would then vote on which candidate received the ballot vote.

Three ballots counted for Sorrels were instead awarded to Whetsel. Four counted for Whetsel were instead awarded to Sorrels. No changes were recorded in seven of the 14 precincts counted.

Sanderson said human counters have more discretion than a machine and can often determine a voter's intention based on how other races are marked. In one instance, the computer awarded a vote to Whetsel because of a slight dot in the box next to his name despite clear markings in all the other races.

Because that particular voter had marked the Republican box in the straight-party category, the vote was ultimately awarded to Sorrels.

“Sometimes visually people can interpret the vote differently,” Sanderson said.


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