Washington Evening Journal
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Neighbors Growing Together | Jul 29, 2014

Canvass confirms wins

By Andy Hallman | Nov 14, 2012

            The Washington County Auditor’s Office conducted a canvass of the Nov. 6 election Tuesday morning. The canvass counted 54 votes that were not counted on Election Day, but those votes did not change the outcome of any of the races.

            Of the 54 votes, 16 were absentee ballots that were postmarked before Election Day but which arrived after Election Day. Elections Clerk Sue Meeks said that one ballot even came in Tuesday morning all the way from Japan. She said it was a struggle to figure out the Japanese style of writing dates but she did ultimately verify that the ballot was postmarked before Election Day.

            Tuesday was the last day for absentee ballots to be counted, even those postmarked before Election Day. 

            The other 38 ballots were provisional ballots that were cast on Election Day but required further investigation. Most of those cases involved a person who requested an absentee ballot but who later decided to vote in person. Voters who do this are supposed to deliver their absentee ballot to an election worker to ensure that they do not vote twice, but some people forgot to do this.

            A person who neglected to turn in the absentee ballot cast a provisional ballot at the polls on Election Day, which was then counted once election workers verified the person had not also cast an absentee ballot.

            Meeks said that the Kalona precinct confronted a few problems on Election Day. The precinct ran out of ballots that evening and copies of the ballots had to be made, which could not be counted by the optical-scan machines and had to be counted by hand.

            One reason the Kalona precinct ran out of ballots was that an unusually large number of voters in the precinct spoiled their original ballot and had to use a second ballot. Meeks said there appeared to be some confusion about the District 2 supervisor race. She said the number “2” next to “District” seemed to confuse some voters into thinking they could vote for two candidates, when in fact they could vote for only one.

            The optical-scan machine is designed to reject those ballots. If the error was discovered before the voter left the polling place, they were given the opportunity to vote again on a fresh ballot. If the voter left before the error was discovered or they declined to vote again, their vote in that race went down as an “over vote” and did not count.  

            Convicted felons are not allowed to vote. The Clerk of Court’s Office notifies the Auditor’s Office of convicted felons living in the county to expunge them from the voting roles.

            Election workers encountered an interesting case Nov. 6 when a woman, who had been convicted of a felony in Alabama, told the precinct volunteers that she had her rights restored and that she was eligible to vote. Meeks said that her name was not on the list as a convicted felon. Meeks said the Auditor’s Office investigated the matter and learned that the woman’s rights had been restored and thus her vote was counted.

            Eligible voters must register an address with the county in order to vote. Meeks said the precinct workers in Kalona came across a homeless man who wanted to vote. He had a post office box in town, which meant that he was eligible to vote. Meeks said voters need at least a post office box in order to receive mailings from the Auditor’s Office.

            About 11,000 votes were cast in Washington County in the presidential election. The canvass showed that there were 66 write-in votes for president. Ron Paul received the most write-in votes with 42.

            Meeks said that the State Auditor’s Office does not publish vote totals for all write-in candidates if they only received a scattering of votes.   

            The only other race with a significant number of write-in votes for a single candidate was the race for Washington County Sheriff. Incumbent Republican Sheriff Jerry Dunbar ran unopposed and won with 8,218 votes. There were 284 write-in votes cast, of which 69 appeared to be for Washington Police Investigator Shawn Ellingson (some voters spelled the first name as “Sean” or wrote the last name as “Ellington” or “Ellingston”).

            Another noteworthy fact from the canvass was the break-down of absentee votes. Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney won Washington County over the sitting Democratic President Barack Obama by a total of 447 votes (5,562 to 5,115). However, Obama outperformed Romney in absentee voting by 463 votes, winning 2,554 to 2,091.

            Democrats obtained a higher percentage of their vote totals from absentee ballots than the Republicans in several other races. For instance, the District 4 supervisor race was won by Republican Stan Stoops with 887 votes to Independent Adam Mangold’s 612 and Democrat Richard Gilmore’s 570. Even though Gilmore came in third place, he received the most absentee votes with 369, compared to Stoops’s 364 and Mangold’s 283.  

            Pete Morrison, chairman of the Washington County Democratic Party, said the Democratic National Committee has placed a strong emphasis on early voting since the 2004 election. He sees that emphasis at the local level, too, where he organizes teams of people to knock on doors to encourage residents to vote early. He said the party pays special attention to turning out those demographics that lean Democratic, such as young people, Hispanics and single women. 

                          

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