Richland’s Election Mess: 5 key unanswered questions, Day 5

What voters have not been told about the colossal failure of their election process Nov. 6

November 21, 2012 

QUESTION: How did two styles of paper absentee ballots get printed?

Voting on Nov. 6 was, as state Rep. Joe Neal, D-Richland said, “a nightmare – a massive failure of voting machines across the county.”

But when it came time to count the votes, things didn’t go any more smoothly.

A handful or more poll managers didn’t properly close out voting machines, a process that moves the votes from the machines to a cartridge so votes can be counted at election offices in downtown Columbia. That slowed down the tally and raises the question of whether poll workers were properly trained.

Other things might have gone wrong as well. The public doesn’t yet know.

But the biggest known holdup with counting votes turned out to be that two different paper absentee ballot forms had been printed.

The ballots contained the same information – the correct information, election workers said.

But they were printed using two different sizes of type, and the paper-ballot counting machines couldn’t read one of those sizes properly.

The 15,000 or so paper absentee ballots had to be separated by hand into two stacks, and the machine had to be recalibrated to count ballots one stack at a time.

How could the printing of ballots not be standardized? How could this basic mistake have happened? Are there written standards for office workers to follow? If not, why not?

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