November 12, 2013
If you want to see a group of perfectionists, visit the Richmond County Board of Elections a week after election day.
At 10 a.m. Tuesday, board members and elections office staff were busy performing a required random audit of a precinct from the Nov. 5 election. In this case, Hamlet was chosen. Hundreds of ballots had to be hand sorted and verified.
Teresa Smith called out “McQueen, Martin” or “Unger, Brower” and other combinations of the four candidates for Hamlet City Council as Barbara McLaughlin and Nell Bennett make marks on a paper to keep track. Members Ernie Walters, Carlton Hawkins and A.B. Brown were there, too, overseeing the process and raising a question when appropriate.
Jesse McQueen was the top vote-getter with 579 ballots cast in his favor. Needless to say, the process took a while. If you’ve ever lacked for sleep and tried counting sheep, and that process failed you, try counting ballots. That’ll surely do the trick.
The process could be described as maddeningly tedious.
“It makes you sleepy,” said Smith, stifling a yawn before resuming the count.
As the end of the count neared, the group realized that a mistake had occurred — and it couldn’t be sure, exactly, where the mistake had been made.
The count was off by four votes. What McLaughlin and Bennett had tallied from the data Smith called out was different than what the machines reflected.
However, it was, as Stewart accurately noted, “inconsequential to the outcome” of the election.
McQueen and Martin still won, handily, with Brower, as incumbent, out, and Unger on the outside looking in.
Connie Kelly, elections supervisor, persisted. The board could approve the count as-is. However, that result would indicate the machines might not be as accurate as portrayed. As a group, that simply could not be tolerated.
“I’m not satisfied,” Kelly said. “I’d like to do it again.”
The count, she said, was “not 100 percent clean.”
Kelly, accurately, suggested human fatigue might have played a role in potential errors of the first count. With a break and fresh sets of eyes, a second recount was scheduled after the counting of the provisional ballots.
“See how Florida went,” Kelly quipped with a reference to the 2000 presidential election.
Every vote counts. Here in Richmond County, Kelly, board members and elections office staff make sure of it.