By Dan Bledsoe
As one of 20, three-person teams in the recent recount of the Jefferson County District Clerk’s race, I reviewed hundreds of early voting mail-in ballots as well as other paper ballots cast on Election Day in more than a dozen precincts.
The role of the recount teams was just that: to recount the ballots handed to us by election officials. Each team had one person review the ballots and announce the voters’ markings to the two counters, one Republican and one Democrat.
Counters were allowed to review any ballot in question and as many as 40 other people were allowed to serve as poll watchers in a strictly observatory role.
I was originally slated to be one of two counters on a team, but a shortage of filling all 20 callers resulted in my being randomly asked to serve as a caller. While humbled to even be a part of the recount process, I was in absolute shock in seeing how some ballots were filled out.
Voter intent was the rule to go by; however, examples of multiple paper ballots with the following were just plain disturbing to see.
- Multiple mail-in ballots in one precinct all marked with a check, a circle around a political party and the filling in of the oval besides each of the candidates.
- Multiple ballots in another precinct in which the only vote cast was for the district clerk’s race.
- Similarity in scribblings on ballots marked to cast straight-ticket votes; and
- Differences in ink pens used to mark on individual ballots.
After all the paper ballots were recounted, it was announced that there would not be a full recount of all ballots cast electronically. Election and party officials and attorneys came to the conclusion that there would be no statistical difference in the electronic ballots cast being recounted.
Therein lays the major point about the machines.
The ballots that the machines count are recorded by the machines. A recount will not show how voting machines frequently change straight party votes.
Complaints during early voting and on Election Day this year at multiple locations prompted local and Texas Secretary of State officials to halt the use of some machines. Those machines were then re-calibrated and put back in service.
I am not in favor of voting machines. I am even less in favor of the use of a re-calibrated voting machine.
All voting machines undergo a logic and accuracy test. Some machines are then randomly selected for a test reviewed by party officials and open to the general public. These machines are not put back into use.
Also, on Election Day, the problems with some voting machines occurred after there was a problem with reading mail-in ballots during the public test.
It is time for Jefferson County to unplug the machines and start cutting trees because I believe voters, worried about the integrity of elections, will be demanding paper ballots in the next several elections like never before.Dan Bledsoe has more than 24 years experience in media and politics and resides in Groves.