Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Chesterfield Sent to the Corner

Following the mishandling of the 2/12 Primary in Chesterfield County and the subsequent follow-up by the State Board of Elections, Chesterfield County has been asked politely to go and stand in the corner.

Chesterfield County experienced and increase in voting on 2/12 i many of its precincts that resulted in poll workers running our of ballots for the Democratic Primary, but not the Republican. Given Chesterfield historically votes at turnout levels in the 20 percentile or less in some instances during Primary election or Firehouse Primaries the turnout to vote Democrat in the Primary caught many poll workers off guard and the County Electoral Board at a loss for ballots.

Ballots of course were printed up months in advance and many of those in the Presidential race that had withdrawn from the race were still listed on these ballots to be used by voters. Inj defense of the Chesterfield County Electoral Board I am sure that they do some study to determine the number of ballots required per cycle and have to have those printed well in advance. At worst the Board was unprepared for the large turnout to vote Democrat as a result of the two way race between Barrack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

The result of the shortage was that some 299 votes will be thrown out and not counted. THats more votes mind you than Mike Huckabee got in the entire County, but not nearly enough to create a question regarding the winner, whioch was Barrack Obama in a walk. The question however resides in the integrity of the process.

With so many first time voters in this Primary it certainly sends the wrong message here in Chesterfield regarding our dedication to running efficient elections. People were lined up for hours to vote only for there to be a shortage of ballots. Voters were than asked to place the votes on scrap pieces of paper, which many affluent politicos in the lines new would under the law not be able to be counted.

The result of the scrap voting resulted in there being a descrepency in the number of ballots cast versus the number of voters. A verification nightmare I am sure.

The State Electoral Board has called a meeting with Chesterfield officials to take place March 5 at the General Assembly building in Richmond. Secretary of the State Board at a news conference was quoted as stating that the Chesterfield response "only gives me greater concern".

Horace Mann III, Secretary to Chesterfield County Electoral Board will certainly have to answer on March 5th for the actions of the County in this manner but has insisted that the State has not accurately disscerned the data in which the County provided the Board regarding the issue of having more votes cast than voters.

You often scratch your head and think that these things happen in places like Florida, but not this time. It happened right here in Chesterfield County. Good thing most Republicans stayed home on 2/12 or it could have been much worse.

added: 2/26/08

On the day of the election when voitng was coming in, Chesterfield numbers had only 10,000 or so votes cast in the Chesterfield Republican Primary on the SBE (State Board of Elections) website and stated that 99% of the returns were in and yet know two weeks later the Chesterfield site shows quite a different story. This is very disturbing. many voters that know of the SBE site were left with the impression that turnout was very low in the Republican Primary with only 10K votes in a county of 300K but the reality was only the McCain votes seem to be getting to the SBE site for transmission. I have no explaination for this at all. A week or so later we see the breakdown being much higher for Huckabee who actually earned just under 10K votes throughout Chesterfield to McCain almost 12K.

Personally I found myself sittiing in disbelief that on election night as the county reports were coming into to SBE that Chesterfield Republicans went 95% for McCain. Once the real data was provided it became clear that the Primary day data being sent to SBE was not fully accurate and very misleading as reports on the internet were using data like this to call the State for John McCain. Once the call was officially made that McCain had won Virginia, using all those little models they use, the data for Chesterfield was still inaccurate.

I went to sleep Tuesday night wondering just how Chesterfield coulod go McCain in such lareg numbers. Well a week or so later I feel a little better about Chesterfield Republicans.


Anonymous said...

Its not just ballots. I voted in the Cranbeck Precinct and voted for Huckabee and know of two others who say they did as well at the same polls and the state site as zero votes cast for Huckabee in that precinct for the entire primary. I do not understand this unless they cast the votes for Thompson since it showed he got a few at the Cranbeck polls and he is not even running.

Anonymous said...

The Chesterfield.gov site shows 94 votes for Huckabee in the Cranbeck Precinct.


Alter of Freedom said...

In fairness to the first comment, the State Board of Elections website was listing inaccurate information for days concerning Chesterfield.
I do not know if this was related to the overall issue regarding the ballots or simply some transmission error to the SBE, but as of 2/13 the day after the Primary the results had only 229 or so for Huckabee for the whole County. In the end thoough, Huckabee would earn 9,800 or so throughout Chesterfield with the Romney and Paul voters coming in well back of that.

Bill Garnett said...

I followed the election returns closely on the county’s registrar site on 12 February for Midlothian district. All 14 precincts were posted shortly after 8PM. I know this as I emailed the results to the Democratic Party chair for the district and have those records. I notice that those early postings differ from the current registrar’s numbers especially for Davis precinct, which originally were 636 for Obama, and 153 votes for Clinton. These figures now are 712 for Obama and 164 for Clinton.

This discrepancy is troubling. One wonders if machine read ballots could be this far off or what caused the change from the initial results. It is unsettling that something as sacrosanct at voting can in our county be so clouded.

I visited four precincts in Midlothian on Election Day and went out of my way to ask the supervising election official the simple question: “How many eligible voters are there in this precinct”. None were able to supply this information except with a search or a phone call, one could only estimate, and one was unable to provide the number at all. This would seem a basic starting point for any precinct operation.

Alter of Freedom said...

Bill one opf the things I do not understand is why is it more important to have the statisical gargabe that pundits use to divide us amongst gender, race, etc are more important that the voting itself.
What I mean is why ona Primary day do you have to declare which primary you are voting in. Why do you have to get a different folder or be pointed to someone else at another table to get a folder from them and have them check you off in the book. What two books? One for Dems one for Republicans. Is this not merely for statistics. Why not just have everyone on one ballot to begin with and let the voter determine in the booth what the outcome is going to be and let the voter determine in the booth on the same ballot which Primary they are going to vote in. Seems to me if "voting" or ease of voting were what was the focus it would be one ballot. How hard would that be especially in a State where you do not have to register with a particular party.

If there had been one ballot maybe they would not have run out of the ones for the Dems. Word has it there were loads of Rep ballots left over after the Primary.

Bill Garnett said...

I agree with much of what you say. I think that since anyone can vote in the primary, that a single ballot would suffice. And I also think that having to declare "Democrat" or "Republican" publicly at the polls in front of your neighbors, diminishes our tradition of a secret ballot.

Precinct officials should have been able to monitor voting turnout earlier in the day and raised red flags early enough that a more appropriate response to the low level of ballot forms could have been made,

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