The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Here's how your votes are counted

 

November 8, 2018

Diana Zimmerman

At 8 p.m. on Tuesday night, a few witnesses were on hand when employees from the Wahkiakum County Auditor's office started the ballot counting machine. A moment later, it began printing a surprisingly lengthy report, tallying Wahkiakum votes.

With stories of disenfranchised voters coming out of Georgia, North Dakota, Kansas, and Texas, there has been an uptick of concern about voting procedures even from voters in Wahkiakum County.

The Wahkiakum County Auditor's Office follows very strict guidelines provided by the Washington Secretary of State during the election.

The mail has been picked up each day since the ballots were mailed and the ballot box in the office is emptied daily at about the same time.

The people who deliver the ballot boxes from Wahkiakum West and Johnson Park are unable to handle the ballots, because the boxes are locked.

Each day, the number of ballots received is counted, and each signature on the yellow envelopes is verified by staff in the auditor's office. A barcode on the envelope is scanned, which pulls up the name of a person and their signature.

They make sure it's the right name and scan the signature.

"If the signature doesn't track with it then that flags our system," Kaelee Dearmore, who works in the auditor's office, explained. "That starts a process to track down the right signature, or have the person fill out an affidavit if their signature has changed."

"Well, you know I didn't vote for you," someone recently told Auditor Nicci Bergseng. She laughed. "Actually, I had no idea until they told me!"

The auditor's office doesn't have any idea how anyone has voted. They can't know unless someone specifically tells them.

Dearmore said that there is a group of people who have been coming in for years to prepare ballots. After signatures are confirmed, this group begins separating the pink envelopes from the yellow envelopes and places them in different piles.

Already, the names are no longer attached to the ballot. They are in two different piles, never to meet again.

The ballots are removed from the pink envelopes and put in batches of 200. They are then scanned front and back. The tabulator will kick out ballots if someone has changed a vote or writes in someone.

At noon, on Thursday, the Womans Club and a few of their friends marched over to the Wahkiakum County Courthouse to vote. They all had their reasons, but one said she saw it as an opportunity to show youth what civic duty and responsibility looked like. Photo by Diana Zimmerman.

If that happens, a duplicate is made and set aside. The duplicate is not counted. They do this so the canvassing board can see the changed vote or write in and address any problems that might arise when the votes are certified.

Once the ballots have been prepared, they are put in boxes and sealed with a signed oath and stored until tabulation.

The ballots are not tabulated until Election Day.

Even the tabulator is not touched until it is time to do so, due to security procedures, according to Dearmore.

Because Bergseng was running in this election, she can't handle the ballots. But she was there on Tuesday night with a couple employees, some witnesses and another curious candidate or two, to see how it all turned out.

They'd already finished running all the ballots through the tabulator and were waiting for 8 p.m., the official time they could print the report. On the hour, Sue O'Connor, a longtime employee of the auditor's office, picked up the directions for the tabulator, pushed some buttons, and the printer went to work.

 

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