The Oconee County Board of Elections and Registration on Tuesday voted unanimously to toss out the initial scanning of the 7,424 absentee ballots cast in the June 9 election and to rescan those ballots before the county’s election results are certified on Friday.
The Board took the action on the recommendation of Fran Leathers, who is chair of the Board and director of Elections and Registration for the county.
The review will only be of the Absentee Ballots, Leathers said, and she did not believe the results of any of the local elections would be altered by the review.
“There are not all that many, from what I can tell,” Leathers said.
Leather said that she and her staff could complete the scanning in time for the Board to meet and certify the results at 1 p.m. on Friday.
Leathers told the Board that she learned that “some counties were having problems with their absentee ballots not being picked up on the scanner.”
|Leathers, Center, With Board 6/16/2020|
Clarke County is one of those counties.
After talking people in some of those counties, Leathers said, “I decided that I felt like I needed to go in and see if we were having the same issue,” Leathers said. “And it appears that we are.”
The scanner is programmed to read a ballot as marked if 13 percent of the bubble next to the name is filled in, Leathers said.
The bubble itself is 5 percent, Leathers said, so the voter has “to raise it up enough, I guess, for it to be 13 percent.”
“There was one (ballot), in particular,” Leathers said, “where all the races were checked with a check mark, instead of bubbled in.
“When we pulled that to look at it,” she said, “it appeared that only a few of the races actually had been counted, and so blank contests for the rest of them even though they had check-marked in the oval.
“That’s what started this whole thing rolling with us,” she added.
“I didn’t feel like the voters were being picked up as they should have been after what I saw and what I reviewed,” Leather said.
“There’s some, they are right smack in the middle of the oval and it didn’t pick it up at all,” she said.
Leathers said she checked with the legal staff at the Secretary of State Office and with County Attorney Daniell Haygood, who said the county has the authority to review the scans and look for the intent of the voters.
The scanner will be programmed to identify ballots for which no vote is recorded for a race.
The county’s Vote Review Panel, which consists of Democrat Ken Davis and Republican Kirk Shook, will then examine the ballot. They are the party-appointed members of the Board of Elections and Regisration.
The vote review panel will decide “whether you could make a determination of what the voter intent was, or you have to not count that race,” Leathers said.
Leathers estimated it will take 11 hours to scan all of the Absentee Ballots.
Reactions Of Board
“In my personal opinion, every body has to be counted,” Board Member Davis said. “Whatever we have to do to make this happen, we have to do.”
“I’m like you, I agree,” Leathers responded. “I think every vote should be counted. Period. I want us to be transparent. I want us to do whatever we can to make sure every vote in Oconee County counts.”
Jay Hanley, another Board member, agreed.
The Board reviewed copies of several of the ballots that were not scanned correctly.
“On several of these, you can clearly see the vote was for that person,” Hanley said.
In the end, 53.7 percent of the 13,810 votes cast in the June 9 election were via Absentee Ballots, 32.2 percent were via In-Person voting on election day, and 14.1 percent were via In-Person in Advance voting.
I asked Leathers if she would be willing to locate my video camera and tripod in the meeting room of the Board of Elections and Registration so I could record the meeting without being present.
My doctor has recommended that I take every precaution to avoid any possible exposure to COVID-19, so I was not willing to attend the meeting personally.
Leather agreed, and the video below was recorded by that camera.
The entire meeting was devoted to the issue of scanning of the absentee ballots.