Elections Workers Still Counting Spokane County Ballots

It?s been six days since the election and Spokane County election workers are still counting ballots, meaning the final results in races and initiatives in the county aren?t known yet.

Spokane County Auditor Vicki Dalton said Monday several things need to happen to get results sooner. First, voters need to get their ballot in sooner. 50-percent of the ballots come in the day before, the day of and the day after the election. Those thousands of ballots have to be processed and every signature has to be verified, which takes time.

Another issue is that voters need to fill in the ovals on their ballots correctly. This apparently was an issue this election year and is one reason twice as many ballots as usual are having to be duplicated by hand, which adds to the processing time.

Ballots are duplicated when they're damaged or ripped, stained with food or the ovals are not properly filled in. Workers are seeing a big problem with voters not staying in the oval, not filling in the oval completely or marking the ballot too lightly. A ballot is also remade if someone changes their mind and crosses a vote out.

Approximately 30 election workers will work into next week duplicating more than 30,000 ballots.

Dalton blames the problem on voter fatigue.

This was a long ballot,? Dalton said. ?Voters were tiring out by the time they got to the end of the ballot and they just are not filling in the ovals as darkly and clearly as they have done in past elections.?

It takes two elections workers to duplicate a single ballot. One person reads the original ballot while the other person marks the new ballot, then they switch and double check to confirm it's correct while referring to an 84-page book that explains state law on interpreting marks on a ballot.

The entire duplication process is observed by members of both political parties.

Dalton says computerized signature verification will help get election results sooner but there is a catch. The technology is available but the software needs 5 to 15 signatures in a data base for accurate verification. State law, however, does not allow auditors to collect that many signatures.