Dem 49
image description
Ties 3
GOP 48
image description

Hand-Counting of Ballots Is on the Ballot

Some Republican candidates for secretary of state have latched onto a new (and nutty) idea: hand count all the ballots. This despite the well-known fact that hand counts are much slower and less accurate than machine counts. The "basis" for this "platform" is the supposition that the vote-counting machines are all rigged for the Democrats. This plays well with the Republican base but the candidates are careful about not expressing this directly for fear of attracting the attention of Dominion Voting Systems' legal department, a group that appears to have no sense of humor at all. Republican candidates in Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, and Michigan, among others, are big fans of hand counts. Just add this to the culture war agenda of abortion, gay rights, guns, vaccinations, and the rest.

The reason so many states and counties moved to machine counting is that it is faster, more accurate, and less prone to manipulation than hand counts. Some of the early attempts (giant lever machines in New York and punched cards in Florida) have largely given way to hand-marked ballots read by optical scanners. This combination makes it easy to vote and count the ballots but also provides a backup (hand counting) in the case of very close elections. But the objection of the secretary of state candidates has nothing to do with any of these. It is just to feed red meat to a base hungry for explanations of why Donald Trump lost in 2020 (the machines were rigged!).

Fortunately, all Democratic candidates for secretary of state and some of the Republicans want to keep the optical scanners since they haven't drunk the Kool-Aid and know these machines are thoroughly tested before the election with a known set of ballots and generally work fine. They are also tested after the election with known ballots. Nearly all sitting secretaries know that as well. In Nevada, secretary of state candidate Jim Marchant (R) supports hand counting and at least one county (Nye) took that seriously—even though he hasn't won yet. Officials there started hand counting the absentee ballots, but current Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske (R) ordered them to stop as the hand counting was riddled with problems, including delays and errors among the 12 teams of five split into two shifts. In some cases it was taking 3 hours to count 50 ballots. After the June primary, it took the workers in another rural Nevada county (Esmeralda) 7 hours to count the 317 primary ballots. Even if a small county can't afford a counting machine, surely several nearby small counties could band together, buy one machine, and have all the ballots trucked there (guarded by the state police) for counting. (V)

This item appeared on Read it Monday through Friday for political and election news, Saturday for answers to reader's questions, and Sunday for letters from readers.                     State polls                     All Senate candidates