Meeting set for review of provisional ballots in 2022 general elections: District 62 House race margin could get bigger, smaller, stay the same

On Friday, at one minute after 12 p.m., at the Election Central building at Madison and 7th streets, Monroe County’s three-member election board will convene a meeting to review the provisional ballots cast in the Nov. 8 general election.

Posted notice of Monroe County election board meeting at Election Central at 7th and Madison streets starting at 12:01 p.m. on Friday, 16, 2022.

Election officials have told The B Square that for this year’s general election there are well over 100 provisional ballots. Those are ballots that were set aside on Election Day, if there was some question about a voter’s qualification to vote.

The key question to be considered for each ballot is whether it should be counted in the final, official results of the election.

It’s a routine and regular process, but generally does not attract much interest, let alone press coverage.

This time around, the interest in provisional ballots is higher, because of the narrow margin in the District 62 State House race, between Dave Hall (R) and Penny Githens (D).

The unofficial vote totals, not including provisional ballots, give Hall a 37-vote margin: 12,975 to 12,938.

District 62 includes areas of Brown and Jackson counties, in addition to a swath of Monroe County that excludes most of the city of Bloomington.

In Monroe County, Githens got the majority of votes: 10,608 to 7,893.

After Friday’s provisional ballot review, Hall’s 37-vote margin across District 62 could be a little bigger, or a little smaller, or exactly the same.

According to Monroe County election officials, after Friday’s meeting, any provisional ballots that are accepted will be run through an optical scanner, which will write the results to a removable storage drive, which will then be hooked up to the computer that stores the election results and uploaded.

But that scanning and uploading activity might not take place until next Monday, according to Monroe County election officials.

Common reasons for allowing someone to cast only a provisional ballot include the voter’s failure to produce a valid ID, or an attempt to vote at the wrong location, or a failure to sign a mail-in absentee ballot.

The provisional ballot review is performed ballot by ballot, batched by precinct polling location. Typically, there’s some kind of supporting documentation provided by the precinct inspector about why the ballot was set aside as provisional.

Based on The B Square’s previous coverage of provisional ballot adjudication, most situations appear to be pretty clear-cut choices. It’s rare to see a split vote by the partisan-balanced board on whether to accept a provisional ballot.

For example, if someone did not produce the required ID on Election Day, that will be noted by the precinct inspector in the documentation. If the voter who cast the provisional ballot later went to Election Central at 7th and Madison streets between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. before Friday at noon to show a valid ID, then the additional documentation will be attached to the provisional ballot for review. When the election board considers that ballot, it will likely be a clear cut choice to accept the ballot.

If there is no documentation that the ballot was “cured” by the voter’s presentation of an ID at Election Central after Election Day, then the election board will likely have a clear cut choice to reject the ballot.

Monroe County’s three-member election board consists of: the elected county clerk, Nicole Browne (D); the Democratic Party’s appointee, Shruti Rana (D); and the Republican Party’s appointee, Donovan Garletts (R).

According to this year’s election administrator’s manual, no later than this Monday (Nov. 21) at noon, “the circuit court clerk must prepare a statement identifying all votes cast at the election.”

The deadline to finalize the official election form, called the CEB-9, is at noon, 14 days after the election—which is Tuesday (Nov. 22).

The deadline for a candidate to file a recount petition is 14 days after the election, which is Tuesday (Nov. 22) at noon.  But a state or a county party chair has three additional days (17 days after the election) to petition for a recount.

A similar process to review provisional ballots will be unfolding in Brown and Jackson counties, handled by those counties’ respective election boards. Each county’s results get reported to the state’s election division, not to the other counties.

So even if the margin changes in the District 62 race changes, based on Monroe County’s provisional ballot review, that will likely not be the final official margin.

Even though Githens received a majority of Monroe County votes—57.3 percent to Hall’s 42.6 percent—it is not obvious that Election Day provisional ballots, if accepted, would trend in favor of Githens. Githens won a majority in Monroe County based on her strength among early voters.

Based on the current unofficial totals, in Monroe County, Githens got 67.3 percent of the early vote (mailed-in and in-person combined) compared to Hall’s 32.7 percent.

But on Election Day in Monroe County, Hall received 50.5 percent of the vote, compared to Githens’s 49.5 percent—based on unofficial totals.

According to The B Square’s analysis, turnout in the part of Monroe County covered by District 62 was relatively higher than in the rest of the county—possibly due to intensive get-out-the-vote efforts by the political parties for the District 62 race. The race was expected to be tight.

Across the whole county, the 40,489 people who cast a vote in Monroe County amounted to just 77.4 percent of the 52,343 who participated in the 2018 election.

But for just those precincts in this year’s District 62, that percentage was higher. ​For just the precincts in the current District 62 (the boundaries are different than in 2018), the raw-number turnout in 2022 for Monroe County was 88 percent of the 2018 figure—18,051 in 2022, compared to 20,508 in 2018.

Below are precinct-by-precinct plots for Monroe County (just for today’s District 62 precincts), of the percentage point differential between Githens and Hall for three slices of the results: early votes (in-person and mailed-in); Election Day votes; and total votes.

Based on a B Square analysis, a similar early-versus-Election Day pattern—for the District 62 portion of Monroe County—was attested in the last midterm election cycle  of 2018.

By way of example, in the countywide recorder’s race, Democrat Eric Schmitz won a majority of votes in the part of Monroe County covered by today’s House District 62. But among Election Day voters in that part of Monroe County, it was Republican Hal Turner who won a majority of votes for county recorder.

In current District 62 precincts, Schmitz got 64 percent of the early vote, compared to Turner’s 36 percent. But for current District 62 precincts, on Election Day, Schmitz received just 48.6 percent of the vote, compared to Turner’s 51.4 percent.

Considering all votes—early and Election Day—Schmitz prevailed in that part of Monroe County with 56.3 percent to Turner’s 43.7 percent.

Below are precinct-by-precinct plots for Monroe County of the percentage point differential between Schmitz and Turner for three slices of the results: early votes (in-person and mailed-in); Election Day votes; and total votes.