By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO As the Sullivan County Board of Elections prepares to count hundreds of absentee ballots this week, the results of at least one race have already changed.
Fremont’s supervisor race initially featured tallies indicating Democratic candidate Bob Theadore defeated Republican George Conklin.
Turns out it was the other way around.
Conklin currently has the lead with 220 votes compared to Theadore’s 180. Nearly 60 absentee ballots have yet to be counted, so the results could flip-flop again, though that’s not likely.
Last week’s glitch was a result of a Fremont elections inspector misreading the figures while transmitting them to the county board in Monticello, according to Republican Elections Commissioner Rodney Gaebel.
Such mistakes happen, though he’s proud to say this year’s efforts were remarkably error-free.
The only other problems: a screen was broken on one of the electronic voting machines in Monticello (quickly replaced), and an extra digit was added to the District 7 Legislator race results in the Town of Neversink, giving Democratic challenger Gene Benson 363 votes instead of the actual 63 in his apparently successful bid to unseat Republican incumbent Leni Binder.
A recanvassing (recount) of the votes resolved the number discrepancies, but have you ever wondered how your marks on a sheet of paper fed into a machine turn into votes listed on official tallies?
“It’s scanned, and votes are recorded to a memory card,” explained Gaebel of the machine-readable ballots upon which voters make their choices.
Those new-fangled machines (mandated by the state to replace the old lever-operated units) then produce a tape listing every vote. Inspectors transcribe those figures to poll books by hand, then call the numbers into the Board of Elections for immediate upload to the county’s website.
Those books, tapes and the machines themselves are then returned to the Board of Elections for use in confirming the numbers inspectors gave them (the recanvassing).
If necessary, the memory cards can be removed for further study even the paper ballots themselves can be hand-counted when there are uncertainties.
Three percent of the machines are audited by county personnel, as well, to ensure votes are being electronically counted correctly.
“We’re doing, I think, very well with the new system,” assessed Gaebel.