Arriving around 3 p.m. on Tuesday at Monroe County’s Election Central, was the team from Indiana’s state board of accounts (SBOA) that is conducting the manual recounting of ballots in Indiana’s District 62 state house race.
The race 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.
The recounting of Monroe County’s ballots got a good start on Tuesday, but will last at least another day.
Recounting activity on Tuesday lasted until around 6 p.m. The work of reviewing each paper ballot with human hands and eyeballs will continue on Wednesday morning in Monroe County starting around 8 a.m.
In Monroe County, the recount work is not expected to be completed until Thursday morning. But there’s an outside chance the work could wrap up by late Wednesday, according to deputy recount director Andrew Norris.
District 62 includes precincts from three counties: Monroe, Brown and Jackson.
The recounting of ballots in Brown and Jackson counties was completed on Monday and through part of Tuesday. The recount tally sheets and images of challenged ballots from those two counties were provided on a thumb drive to representatives of each campaign. The state recount commission is expected to meet on Tuesday next week (Dec. 20) to finalize the recounted tally.
Candidates can designate watchers to monitor the recount work at the tables where the manual review is taking place. If a watcher wants to challenge the assessment of a ballot by the recount team, they can raise their objection in the moment.
If there’s an objection, the work at that table pauses, while a supervisor records the reason for the objection, and a digital image is made of the ballot, for adjudication by the recount commission. The recount commission is expected to meet next Tuesday, Dec. 20, which is the deadline for completion of recounts.
According to Dee Owens, who is a recount watcher for the Githens campaign and was on site in Brown and Jackson counties, there were initially 261 ballots that were “missing” in Brown County. That number later dropped to 91, and eventually reduced to 17, Owens said.
If 261 ballots had remained missing, that alone could have had an impact on the election outcome. That’s because Hall won Brown County with two-thirds of the vote. If 261 ballots were picked at random and excluded from the count, that would be expected to split 174 to 87 for Hall.
That hypothetical 87-vote swing would be enough to erase Githens’s 40-vote shortfall. The remaining 17 missing ballots would not have the same size impact.
Shifts one way or the other could come from a part of state election law that requires each absentee ballot to be initialed by two election workers. If a ballot lacks either of the two initials, the recount team does not add that ballot to the tally. In one Brown County precinct, there were eight such ballots, Owens told The B Square. Of the eight, seven were votes for Githens, Owens reported. That means Githens’s margin would slip by six votes.
Another way the count could shift is if the optical scanner did not pick up the voter’s mark because it was too light. The human recounter team could judge a light mark still to reflect the voter’s intent. Owens told The B Square that for one Brown County precinct, the number of undervotes dropped from eight to four, which could be chalked up to that kind of scenario.
Monroe County’s Election Central is housed in the old Johnson’s Hardware building at 7th and Madison streets in downtown Bloomington.
On Tuesday, behind a cordoned off area in Election Central, six recount tables were set up. Two counters were assigned to each table, who were monitored by a watcher from each campaign.
Expectations of watchers and their conduct at the table were laid out at the start by SBOA staff: “Please don’t touch the table. Don’t put your arms on the table—no drinks, no food on the table.”