At 8 a.m. on Friday, a dozen staff from Indiana’s state board of accounts (SBOA) and some state police officers arrived at Monroe County’s Election Central at 7th and Madison streets in downtown Bloomington.
The SBOA staff’s job for the day was to sort the ballots from the Nov. 8 election into piles—one pile for each of the 29 Monroe County precincts that is a part of state house District 62.
The sorting comes in preparation for the recounting of ballots in the race, which was won by Republican Dave Hall, who had a certified tally of 12,990 votes. That was 40 more than Democrat Penny Githens received. The request for the recount was filed by Monroe County Party chair David Henry.
In Monroe County, the recounting itself is now expected to start around noon on Wednesday (Dec. 14) next week. That will come whenever the recounting is complete in Jackson and Brown counties—which are the other two counties with some precincts included in District 62.
In Monroe County, the piles of ballots for District 62 should total 18,737—that’s 18,517 cast ballots for the race, plus 220 undervoted ballots.
Sorting the ballots into piles by precinct is not a quick task.
That’s because on Election Day in Monroe County, each polling location serves voters from more than one precinct. But at the polling location, all the ballots from every different precinct are sent through one optical scanner, which tallies the marks and assigns them to the correct races.
But when the ballots are scanned, they land in the machine’s hopper in a single pile. It’s that pile that has to be separated by precinct.
The daily batches of ballots that are scanned for in-person early voting have to be sorted by precinct in a similar way. The same goes for mailed-in absentee ballots.
At around 3 p.m. on Wednesday, at Monroe County’s Election Central there was plenty of sorting left. It was hoped that the sorting would be done by around 6 p.m.
Deputy Monroe County clerk Tressia Martin described to The B Square some of the reasons why the optical scanner’s tally might differ from the total determined by the human counters. Among them are scenarios where a voter marks a ballot for both candidates, but indicates with additional markings—like a circle around the candidate’s name or an arrow pointing to one of the boxes—the mark they intended to count.
For an in-person Election Day voter, a ballot that is double-marked in that fashion would get rejected by the optical scanner as an overvote, Martin said. When it’s rejected, the voter would have an opportunity to correct the problem by voting a fresh ballot.
But some voters will just use the override button on the optical scanner that lets them cast the ballot “as is.” If overridden to accept the ballot, the optical scanner would not count a vote for either candidate in that race. But the human re-counters could make a judgment call, Martin said.
Those types of judgment calls will be made by a three-person audit team, Monroe County election supervisor Karen Wheeler told The B Square. The three will include a least two staffers from the state board of accounts—which is a required by the Indiana Recount Commission guidelines. Wheeler said the three would include a Democrat and a Republican, with a third person from the secretary of state’s office.
The pre-recount process was conducted in all three counties by the Recount Commission this week on Wednesday
The ballots were impounded the previous week.