Vote count goes on

Published 11:45 pm Thursday, August 9, 2007

NATCHEZ — Election workers had made their way through four Democratic precinct boxes by Thursday evening.

Each party is responsible for certifying and counting ballots. Few candidates ran on the Republican ballot and few voters chose that ballot. Because of that, the Republican workers finished Wednesday.

The election commission aided in the election but does not have much to do with certifying ballots, Election Commission Chairman Larry Gardner said.

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The Democrats probably had another day to go, at least, he said. Tentatively, everything must be certified by Tuesday.

“Also at that time, we want to send the ballots (for runoffs) to print,” Gardner said. “The latest we want ballots coming back from the printer is (Aug.) 23.”

The election workers have to compare the number of names in the signature books with absentee and affidavit ballots, which are used if a voter’s name is not on the election rolls.

Then, they have to verify the number of ballots off the machines, account for all the absentee ballots sent to the precinct and make sure everything tallies up, Gardner said.

Affidavit and absentee ballots are sometimes rejected when the voter fails to fill out the forms correctly and follow instructions. Workers have to make sure those that were rejected by the poll workers should actually have been rejected.

“When all that gets done, they run (the ballots) through an optical scanner,” Gardner said.

The scanner adds all the votes and provides final election results, he said.

The process takes a lot of work, especially with possibly as many as 2,000 ballots, but more workers is not necessarily better, Gardner said.

Roughly five or six Democratic party members worked in the circuit courtroom Thursday. In fact, the election commission’s five members go through the same process during general elections.

“That’s usually what you would have,” Gardner said. “You get too many people, and it gets to be a madhouse. You can’t keep things organized and running smoothly.”

The timeline for going through all the ballots is about average this year, too, he said.

“In a normal election, we’d be lucky to be done in three days,” Gardner said.