The problem identified below shows up in other Wyoming locations, and also can affect absentee votes in any other location if jurisdictions send folded ballots.
The Natrona County clerk’s office says the folded absentee ballots may delay the count, but won’t affect the count. That is not necessarily true. Folded absentee ballots have been found in other states to produce miscounted ballots when the fold goes through a ballot choice oval. Because folding degrades paper stock (especially heavy paper or cardstock), it can change the optical characteristics and, depending on the crease and voter marks, can produce an undervote, an overvote, or a vote for the wrong candidate.
Because Wyoming does not permit hand recounts — no human eyes on the ballots — voting machine errors for folded ballots may affect the count. Because Wyoming does permit public ballot examinations after the election (though they do not affect the result) it would be worthwhile to request an inspection of folded absentee ballots for comparison with reported absentee results, especially in a close race. Note that finding no ballot miscounts in one election does not carry over to other elections, which may use different paper stock or machines at different maintenance levels, or variance in machine temperature when ballots were scanned.
Best practices for ballot printing and mailing: Inspect ballot layout to ensure that fold lines do not go through the area where voters mark their choice on front and back of ballot.
Machine problems slow vote count1
Problems with a new ballot-counting machine plagued the Natrona County clerk’s office Tuesday.
Regular ballots for all 46 precincts were counted by 8:15 p.m., but 3,942 absentee ballots remained uncounted long into the evening. The votes stood to affect several races, possibly including the U.S. House of Representatives contest and the Wyoming Senate District 29 race.
The machine had trouble reading the absentee ballots, which had been folded in the mail. Clerk’s office employees had to feed the ballots in slowly and fix several jams.
The problems were not expected to affect the accuracy of the count, according to the clerk’s office, but they would delay results. No absentee ballot information would be added to the vote tallies until all ballots had been counted.
- Machine problems slow vote count, Casper Star-Tribune, 11/08/2006, http://trib.com/news/elections/machine-problems-slow-vote-count/article_8344a1ec-f5c0-5009-b5a3-eb32a871abcc.html ↩