State holds post election vote tally audit

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(Host) The State of Vermont today held its first ever post election audit of vote tallies of towns that use optical scan machines.

State Elections Director Kathy DeWolfe says the initial results show that these machines are very accurate and that most discrepancies are the result of human error.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kathy DeWolfe) “Too many ballots left so everybody change packs with somebody and recount your 25 “

(Kinzel) That’s Vermont Elections Director Kathy DeWolfe giving instructions to 26 volunteers who participated in the audit.

The goal of the review is to determine the accuracy of optical scan voting machines that are used in roughly 75 towns in Vermont. These communities account for about two thirds of all voters in the state.

The audit volunteers worked in pairs. Ballots were divided into groups of 50 and then one volunteer would call out the name of the candidate designated on the ballot while the other kept a running tally of the votes. They focused on the race for U.S. House and the U.S. Senate.

(Counters) “Sanders – Welch ..Sanders Rainville -Sanders Welch – Sanders Welch – Sanders -Welch

(Kinzel) When roughly 2400 votes from St. Albans were handed counted about 10 votes shifted in these races. DeWolfe says she’s not surprised by these changes.

(DeWolfe) “It’s primarily absentee ballot voters who may not make a really dark mark with a blue pen. The ballot instructions say on the ballot please use a black pen or pencil and please fill in the oval. Some people insist on still making a check mark in a faint pen.”

(Kinzel) Then the St. Albans votes were hand counted a second time and vote total changed by another 5 votes. DeWolfe says even people can disagree about the intention of a voter on a ballot that’s not clearly marked.

(DeWolfe) “And to show that a hand count can differ so that it’s not just a tabulator that differs from the hand count or hand count to hand count can differ.”

(Kinzel) DeWolfe says the initial results of the audit clearly show that the optical scan machines are a very reliable method of tabulating votes.

(DeWolfe) “We’re very confident in op scans. They’ve been used all throughout the country. We’ve used this same model in Vermont since 1994. So we’ve had 6 elections with experience.”

(Kinzel) The post election audit didn’t recount any votes in the Auditor’s race. That’s a contest where Republican Randy Brock leads Democrat Tom Salmon by just 137 votes out of roughly a quarter of million votes cast.

A formal statewide recount of that race will be conducted in the next few weeks.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

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