Monroe County provisional ballots resolved, poll worker calls election staff “rock stars”

This was three-member county election board on Friday, Nov. 13, 2020,  resolving provisional ballots cast on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. From left: Carolyn VandeWiele (Democrat), Hal Turner (Republican) and Monroe County’s clerk, Nicole Browne. (Screenshot from Zoom conference call.)

Election results were ready in Monroe County on election night on Tuesday, Nov. 3, around 11 p.m.

Those initial results will now get altered, possibly by as much as 15 votes either way, which won’t be enough to change the outcome of any races.

The tweak to the results comes from the provisional ballots that got resolved on Friday by the county’s three-member bipartisan election aboard.

If there’s any kind of dispute or conflict at the polls, the law gives a voter the chance to cast a provisional ballot, which then gets reviewed by the three-member bi-partisan election board.

On Friday, the board reviewed 110 provisional ballots. By The Square Beacon’s count, 15 of them got accepted, each by separate unanimous vote of the board.

Timely reporting of results on election night was one win for the county’s election staff this year. Another was the post-election audit score for the scanners used to tally the numbers.

According to a press release issued by the county clerk last Wednesday, the audit gave the equipment a 100-percent score.

According to the release, the 547 ballots from Van Buren Precinct 6 were scanned with a central scanner and compared to the results from the scanner used at the precinct on election day. The two reports matched exactly, according to the press release.

Another win came on election night in the form of a rave review from a poll worker. After turning in ballots at Election Central at 7th and Madison streets, one of Monroe County’s longtime poll workers, Kurt Seiffert, told The Square Beacon:

I’ve been doing this for 30 years. I started in college. I trained under Republican judges and inspectors. I’ve worked under Republican clerks, Democratic clerks and everything. I can say hands down this was the best equipment, process, people, training, ever in 30 years. It went so smooth, so wonderful. These are rock stars here. The rest of the state should use this as a model.

Seiffert also told The Square Beacon that one thing he hated about the process was having to tell voters, who sometimes arrive at the precinct with 10 minutes left before polls close, that they are in the wrong place.

If someone is registered to vote, but not at the precinct where they appear on election day, poll workers will look up their registration and tell them the correct location. But in some cases it would mean more than a 10-minute trip.

Casting a provisional ballot won’t cure the problem of trying to vote at the incorrect polling location. On Friday, several provisional ballots that were rejected by the board suffered from the same defect: The voter was registered in Monroe County, but not in the precinct where they tried to vote.

What kind of ballots got accepted on Friday?

Of the provisional ballots that was accepted by the board on Friday, was from a voter who tried to vote at Perry Township Precinct 32. The voter was registered in Perry 32 but did not present adequate ID at the time. The voter followed up later with an ID, and that adequate ID was documented for the board in the paperwork they reviewed.

A couple of provisional ballots were accepted because they were cast as the result of slow-to-respond software on the state’s end. County poll workers use poll books to look up registration in the state’s SVRS (statewide voter registration system).

On election day, with poll workers across the state looking up registrations, the SVRS system was sometimes slow to respond, according to election board member Carolyn VandeWiele. That meant it sometimes erroneously indicated that a voter was not registered at all. For those voters who cast provisional ballots in that circumstance, election staff were able to document their registration by the time the election board met on Friday.

The 110 provisional ballots cast this year were fewer than the 260 that were cast in the 2018 election.

VandeWiele was still a little disappointed by the number of people who were registered to vote in Monroe County, but went to the wrong polling location. They can cast a provisional ballot, but the outcome for that scenario is that the ballot gets rejected.

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