Shorter Election-Day lines traded for slower ballot counting
On Election Day in 2008, the Clark County Elections Department saw a line that ran out the door and around the block. Remember this?
On Election Day this year, the lines were much shorter, thanks to a change that allowed voters to print their ballots from a state website. New this year, that change helped voters who might have lost their ballots or changed addresses since the last election.
“Somebody can go to that site, type in their name and their birthday, and it will bring up their registration record,” Clark County Elections Supervisor Tim Likness said this week. “It will also allow them to link to a ballot image of their ballot — of exactly what they would get on their ballot — and they can print that out, and they can vote that.”
Clark County election officials got more than 1,000 of those voter-printed ballots — also called “My Vote” ballots. Election officials have ways of making sure someone can’t submit more than one ballot.
The shorter lines this year did come at a slight cost, though. Counting those My Vote ballots slowed down the vote counting process.
“All of those (My Vote ballots) had to be duplicated because the ballot format they printed out was not standard with our system, so they had to be duplicated onto a ballot that we could scan,” Likness said. “So that’s why, if you’re wondering why it’s taken so long. We had an enormous amount of duplication that we had to do for those that we haven’t had to do in the past.”
Additionally, the duplicated ballots go through a “proofing” process to insure they were copied correctly, Likness said.
One thousand votes wouldn’t typically be an issue this late in the ballot-counting process, but then, some of Clark County’s election results weren’t typical. About 100 votes is all that separates the candidates in one Senate and one House race in the 17th District.
Although the fate of candidates in those races have hung in the balance a little longer than they might have in previous years, the new system ultimately benefits voters, Likness said.
“It makes a lot of work for us on the back end, but it certainly facilitates getting people involved on the front end so we don’t have, like we did four years ago,” Likness said. “We had 1,300 people lined up out the door and around the corner. They were waiting up to four hours to vote. This year, I don’t think anybody waited more than 45 minutes, and the line went halfway down our hallway. The My Vote had a lot to do with that.”
(Photo by Steven Lane, The Columbian)