State Rep. candidate Tom Keane of Bow set the record straight yesterday by following through on a request for a recount of his race in Bow/Dunbarton with a hand count of the ballots. I helped, along with a small band of Tom’s other friends.
If you have never been involved with a recount of machine ballots and may want to do so some day, here is what you are in for – a long suffering Kabuki Dance.
Tom Keane was suspicious of the end tally of totals from Bow and Dunbarton as well as the disposition of some of the absentee ballots. Tom he asked for a recount even though he lost by 58 votes, 1.01% of the total cast. A total of 58 votes are hard to make up in a recount of the ballots because there are often very few ballots where the intent of the voter may be in question.
So as is the silly tradition here in NH we dump out, in front of a slew of observers, the sealed ballot materials from election day and go through the motions of hand counting each and every one, which unless you won or lost by less that 10 votes is a waste of everyone’s time.
The quickest and easiest and probably most effective way to re-count would be to FIRST take the documents from election day, what I like to call tally sheets, and look for mathematical mistakes. WE don’t do that. No, we act as though the thousands of marked ballots hold some secret final number the machines and ballot clerks did not see when in fact it is in the Town Moderator’s ADDITION of the votes cast where you will often find problems.
From 1:00 PM to about 5:5:00 we went through the motions of counting all the ballots the machines and ballot clerks counted already, winding up with something like a 3 or 4 vote difference. Not quite the 58 Tom needed.
Ah, but when the totals of all votes counted were re-totaled there was a 70 vote difference. That would be 70 as in a 7 and a 0 side by side. And in the world of numbers 70 is larger than 58.
In this case the 70 vote difference seems to be an error in one candidate’s total in one town.
BOTTOM LINE: We hand count for hours each and every ballot for voter intent and find only three votes changed. But we add up the totals of the same ballots and find a 70 vote difference in one candidate's final result! The election results remain the same because that 70 vote difference did not change the position Tom Keane was in at the end of the six person race for three seats.
We could have avoided the four hours of Kabuki recounting had we simply counted the total of UNUSED ballots and matched them with the USED ballots or had state-generated, efficient, understandable tally sheets from election day and simply reviewed the math and looked for a 70 vote mistake.
But we don’t do that in NH and we NEVER have recounts that have more than a handful of mistakes, do we?