Saturday, June 20, 2020

Rescanning Of Oconee County Absentee Ballots Resulted In Four Additional Voters Being Counted

***Results Certified On Friday

The rescanning of Oconee County’s 7,422 Absentee Ballots on Wednesday did not have any impact on the outcome of the county’s elections on June 9, but it did result in the votes of four of the county’s residents being counted that were missed in the first scan.

The rescan had been agreed upon by the county Board of Elections and Registration on Tuesday because the scanner appeared to be not counting some of the Absentee Ballots that had been marked.

Oconee County Director of Elections and Registration Fran Leathers told the Board at its meeting on Friday that the scan of the 7,422 Absentee Ballots had taken seven hours on Wednesday.

Leathers said she used modified parameters that identify the ballots to be reviewed by the Vote Review Panel, which consists of Board of Elections and Registration Members Democrat Ken Davis and Republican Kirk Shook.

On Friday, the Oconee County Board of Elections and Registration certified those results, with the four ballots that previously had not been counted included in the totals.

A total of 13,814 (48.3 percent) of the county’s 28,594 registered voters cast a ballot in the June 9 election, which included the postponed Presidential primary from March 24 and the postponed Party Primaries and Non-Partisan Judicial elections originally scheduled for May 19.

The tally includes 4,444 votes (32.2 percent) cast in person on Election Day, 1,946 votes (14.1 percent) cast in person in early voting, 7,422 votes (53.7 percent) cast via Absentee Ballots, and two votes initially designated as provisional (less than a tenth of a percent).

The two provisional votes, cast on election day using the Absentee Ballot form, are now certified. One voter had been at the wrong polling place and the other initially lacked proper identification.

Procedures Followed

“It was not our intention to cause controversy in the county or state or anything like that,” Leathers said of the rescanning of the ballots. “We just wanted to ensure that all the votes that should be counted were counted. That’s why we did what we did.”

Board Meeting 6/19/2020 With Sheriff's Tallies
(Click To Enlarge)

Leathers said she thinks the Dominion scanner “is certainly trustworthy, capable and everything of doing what it needs to do going forward.”

She said she hopes there is some discussion at the Secretary of State’s Office about the “sensitivity thresholds on the scanner” in the future.

The scanner is set at a 13 percent standard for picking up a voter’s mark in the bubble on the ballot, but the bubble itself contributed 5 percent of that required 13 percent.

The ballots that Leathers had identified before the Board met on Tuesday had marks in the bubble but had not been counted.

“It was worth doing,” Leathers said. “We picked up four.”

In last year’s mayoral race in Watkinsville, Bob Smith defeated Dave Shearon by only two votes, members of the Board noted.

Scanner Modifications

Leathers emphasized that she did not modify the sensitivity of the scanner in reprocessing the documents but only the parameters that isolated ballots for review. The added parameter was for blank content.

Leathers said she was aware that the Athens Banner-Herald was reporting that she had gotten permission from the Secretary of State to allow her to modify the sensitivity setting.

“We didn’t get an OK from the state to go either way,” she said. It was a local decision that only dealt with the parameters for isolating the ballots for review, she added.

The Banner-Herald reported as its top story in Saturday’s paper that “Oconee County got the OK from staff officials to change the parameters” for the rescan.

Minor Issues

Leathers said the June 9 election, using new voting equipment, had produced few problems.

Some additional training on the tablets used to check in the voters probably is needed, she said.

Some voters could not remember if they had voted in the March 24 Presidential Primary, which was postponed with the onset of the pandemic after early voting had started, and that took some time to sort out at the polls, Leathers said.

She said her office had more than 700 calls from voters on Election day, taxing the staff’s ability to respond.

On election day itself, 439 voters cancelled their Absentee Ballot in order to vote in person, and that resulted in some delays, Leathers said.

Overall, a total of 841of the 9,809 Absentee Ballots issued were cancelled by voters, Leathers said.

I checked the tallies before and after the rescan for the Sheriff’s election, and each candidate, winner James Hale and Jimmy Williamson, received one additional vote as a result of the inclusion of the four ballots. Hale received 75.0 percent of the final vote.

The remaining two voters could have used the Democratic Ballot, the Non-Partisan Ballot, or simply skipped that race.


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.

Leather agreed, and the video below was recorded by that camera.

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