Friday, May 28, 2021

Lead Now Favors Hutnik in Forks Palmer MDJ Race

The race for the Democratic nomination in the Forks and Palmer Tp magisterial district judge will be decided today. It's been an interesting battle between Attorneys Lisa Spitale and Susie Hutnik, both of whom are highly regarded and very much alike. 

On election night, Spitale was ahead of Hutnik by a scant two votes. 

Then the canvassing began.  That's a review, precinct by precinct, of the votes cast in each race. It involves checking the flash drive in each voting machine, a comparison of the votes ballots cast on the machine against who actually checked in on the electronic poll book, a review of the mail-in ballots cast, checking the provisional ballots and "remakes" of mail-in ballots rejected by the scanner. 

As of Wednesday, Hutnik had picked up two votes and the race was in a dead heat. As of Thursday night, Hutnik is ahead by six. But it's still too soon to pop open the champagne.

One of my readers complains we all should have known the winners on election night. "[T]his extended counting is not what has been the history of voting in the USA," he observes. "This only leads to a further eroding of faith in the system."

This reader is wrong. The election results tabulated on election night or the following day are unofficial and stay that way until the votes are canvassed and results are certified by the Elections Comm'n. It always takes a week or a little more to conclude this canvass.  

Remakes

As I've mentioned in a previous post, 516 of the 16,010 mail-in ballots received (3.2%) were rejected by the scanner. Unlike a Presidential contest, the ballot in a  municipal contest is much longer and this presents a problem when unfolded for scanning. A paper tear or poor unfolding sometimes renders the ballot unreadable, and that's when elections officials must complete "remakes." 

You could reject all 516 of the ballots rejected by the scanner, but that would disenfranchise the voter.

Provisionals 

In addition to the remakes, provisional ballots must be reviewed. Is the voter registered? Does he actually belong to the Democratic or Republican party?  Should it count in the precinct where the provisional was cast? 

These questions must be answered by canvassers before deciding to count or reject a provisional.

Pollworker Error

The canvass will also disclose pollworker error, especially now that the county is using electronic poll books. 

When the polls close, the elections judge removes a flash drive from the voting machine. This is encrypted and is taken from the precinct and handed to county officials to tabulate the results. In the Forks and Palmer Tp race, the elections judge in one of the Forks Tp districts turned in two flash drives corresponding to two voting machines in that precinct. One of the flash drives showed that no votes had been cast at all. When contacted, the elections judge told officials no one had used that machine. This information was incorrect. 

During the canvass, the electronic pollbook showed that 100 more voters had checked in to vote than  appeared in the results. Officials then checked the machine that supposedly was never used. The missing votes were there and were tabulated. The elections judge removed the flash drive before closing the polls. 

It's a long day. 

This is why you do a canvass. 

Without the electronic pollbooks advocated by Voter Registrar Amy Cozze and County Administrator Charles Dertinger, this error would never have been discovered.   

Dertinger has overseen the selection of three separate voting systems during his time as Elections Commissioner, County Council member and Administrator. He has been through close races like this one.

In an interview yesterday, Dertinger said that the entire district will be audited today. Both campaigns have been informed. If the final tally is a tie, Hutnik and Spitale will draw straws. 

Marc Crisafulli, a Wilson Borough police officer, has sewed up the Republican side.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

To be sure, there are MANY reasons why Elections need to be audited. Some of those reasons are relatively new challenges brought about by changing times in how Elections are conducted. Can happen at local, state, and federal levels. Got it!

Anonymous said...

This sounds bad. If that mistake was made there, it could have happened other places. Every machine in the county must be checked for a fair count. Duh duh Dertinger is not known as a trustworthy source of information.

Anonymous said...

Scrape these electronic voting machines, lets go back to hand counting or mechanical machines.

Anonymous said...

You are certainly correct. In the past any close election had to wait until the official tabulation by the election office. Candidates could always observe the official count and could, if necessary, seek a challenge if evidence presented itself. There could be challenged absentee ballots, machine misreads, and tabulation errors.

Anonymous said...

Bernie if it's a tie, do they really draw straws? Or is that a joke?

Anonymous said...

well written article explaining the nuances of elections in a 5th grade level,
Still you will have the Trumpeters saying "election fraud" due to the
supreme leader and his cry of wolf these past 10 months.

Anonymous said...

What you described is incompetence, dishonesty, untrustworthiness, and borderline criminal. Who is this election judge? What about the machine operators (inspectors)? How did they sign and affirm? Majority Inspector and Minority Inspector, the Clerk too? They ALL have to sign and certify the "General Returns of Votes Cast" form, after recording the results from Machine 1, Machine 2, Machine 3, and Machine 4...

They removed the thumb drive before closing the poll? and presumably left all the paper ballots inside the machine bin?

Fire them all. Thank goodness for the real paper ballot system, otherwise the votes would have never been tabulated. On an even sader note, those election officials were all PAID for their service.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"This sounds bad. If that mistake was made there, it could have happened other places. Every machine in the county must be checked for a fair count. Duh duh Dertinger is not known as a trustworthy source of information."

It actually did. The same mistake that occurred at a precinct in Forks occurred at one in Bethlehem Tp. This mistake was caught during the canvass. It is why canvasses are done. They protect your right to vote.

As for your complaint about Dertinger, I think you might be jaundiced bc he has been a partisan Democrat. But I know no one in the county who is more knowledgeable about elections systems. He has been involved in three different systems.

Also, it is he who disclosed the errors made by two elections judges. He could have kept thast to himself, but disclosed information that might on its surface make the county look bad bc he knows that it is best to be completely transparent.

I commend him, especially for the epollbooks.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Fire them all. Thank goodness for the real paper ballot system, otherwise the votes would have never been tabulated. On an even sader note, those election officials were all PAID for their service."

I do not believe the elections judge lied when he or she said that the machine went unused. I believe this person was confused after a long day. You are correct when you note that, in addition to the judge, there is a machine inspector as a well as a majority and minority inspector and a clerk, They all take an oath and all sign and certify the results on each machine. I believe they did that, and none of them had any way of knowing there were no results on the flash drive. The elections judge, when asked about the flash drive, explained the machine was not used and this is incorrect. But that judge probably had three machines and did not use one of them and then got confused. The votes were there, on their own return, on the ballots and on the machine. There was no criminal intent that I can see.

As for the paper ballot backup, that's the beauty of this voting system. It is redundant. You actually have two different voting systems for the price of one. But the reality is that the returns showed the votes. Moreover, the epoollbooks showed that 100 people voted whose votes were not on the flash drives. This is why you ALWAYS canvass the results. No one pays attention to this laborious process except in Presidentials and close races.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Scrape these electronic voting machines, lets go back to hand counting or mechanical machines."

The whole reason we stopped relying on hand counting paper is bc people would stuff ballot boxes. Fraud is actually most possible with paper ballots. As for the lever machines, they were very reassuring but very inaccurate. In some cases, 100 votes would be case before the machine actually started to work, according to a study (I do not have a link to it at this time but will get it).

No voting system is completely invulnerable, but ours is probably the best because it is redundant.

Our system is designed to be legal, fair and accurate. The canvass is what ensures it.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Bernie if it's a tie, do they really draw straws? Or is that a joke?"

No joke.