Eagle County voting runs a hard road before it’s official
EAGLE, Colorado – Eagle County voters did not get Al Frankened.
You remember Al Franken, the junior senator from Minnesota. As counting continued in that razor-thin election margin, an election worker showed up with more than 300 ballots that had been “lost,” then rediscovered in a car.
That didn’t happen in Eagle County with this year’s election. The sheriff’s race was the closest of any race in recent memory. Joe Hoy nipped James van Beek by a scant 83 votes, and Eagle County Clerk and Recorder Teak Simonton is rock solid with those numbers.
They were made official Monday. The checks and balances for getting to officialdom are exhaustive, after the canvass board finished its work.
“It’s a detailed, tedious and exhaustive process to go through a canvass,” Simonton said. “It’s more work than the election.”
State law requires that after every election a canvass board that reviews all the processes. The canvass board is people you know, a fairly incorruptible lot.
In an even-numbered election year, like this one, there is at least one person from each major political party. This year, the local parties appointed two each. People from each party look over one another’s shoulders as every ballot is counted and recorded.
It starts on Election Day with teams of ballot retreivers sealing the ballot boxes and recording those numbers. The boxes are ferried to the Clerk and Recorder’s office, the seals are inspected to make sure they have not been altered, and the numbers from those seals are recorded.
They do this three times on Election Day, and the ballots from each precinct matched the number of signatures, Simonton said.
Then the counting and canvassing can begin, traditionally waiting for the second day after an election – a Thursday. The canvass board starts by making sure the number of ballots they have matches the numbers the voting machines recorded. If it doesn’t, they’re in for a long day because this stuff matters and this stuff has to match, Simonton said.
“Every single race, every single question. They all get an audit and a hand count to make sure it’s all done correctly,” Simonton said. “It took us two full days with eight people working each day to do the 1,096 ballots.”
They do a hand audit of a certain percentage of the ballots cast to make sure everything ended up where it was supposed to. State law requires an audit of around 3 percent of all ballots. Eagle County does more than 8 percent, Simonton said.
They audited 1,096 ballot. They were required to audit only 319.
They divided those 1,096 ballots into 30 stacks, one for each precinct in Eagle County. In 1,096 ballots, they are allowed to have four errors. They’ve never had more than one, Simonton said.
“It was very effective in proving that the election was tabulated correctly,” Simonton said.
This time around, the canvassing board also opened all the provisional ballots, those ballots where people did something like vote by mail then show up at the polls on election day to vote anyway. Those ballots had to be opened, checked and added to the total. Everything is done by hand, and no one voted twice. We really do not live in Chicago.
They go over it and over it, to make sure every single ballot is opened and counted, and that all those numbers match.
“Nothing can be lost,” Simonton said.
People can be curious and everyone’s asking for a winner, wondering what could be taking so long.
“We prove to them that the election had intergrity every step of the way,” Simonton said. “That’s the overarching goal, to have a great level of comfort with everything we had done.”
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