Tuesday, November 14, 2000

Thumbs up for hand counts

Local officials endorse system

By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        As Florida election officials race to hand count ballots in four counties, local election officials say: been there, done that.

        Ohio law dictates that when there is a recount — when a race is decided by one-half of one percent of the vote — a percentage of ballots must be counted by hand to ensure the accuracy of the counting machines.

        It's a tiresome process, but one that works, they say.

        “We have a lot of confidence in the hand count,” said Don Daiker, chairman of the Butler County Board of Elections. “We rely on it as a check.”

        Clermont is different from its neighboring counties in that it uses the so-called “optical scan” ballots, which consist of small ovals. Voters use a pencil to darken in the oval next to the candidate of their choice.

        Still, Kathy Jones, deputy director of the Board of Elections there, said the hand counts are considered more accurate than the machine count.

        That's why it's used as a check, she said.

        “As far as I'm concerned, they've always given us an accurate account,” Ms. Jones said.

        Hand counts are tougher in Hamilton, Butler and Warren counties, which use the punch hole system of voting — similar to the system used in Palm Beach County, Fla.

        Bev Moore, director of the Warren County Board of Elections, said hand counts are worth it.

        “It takes a long time because you're counting little tiny holes,” Ms. Moore said. “But what you're doing is simply verifying that your card reader has indeed counted the ballots correctly.”

        The last time a hand count played a role in a major race in Butler County was 1974, when Gov. James A. Rhodes defeated John Gilligan by fewer than 10,000 votes.

        Mr. Daiker said there were two Republican and two Democrat members of the Butler County board who made the final call on disputed ballots.

        They never had a disagreement during the hand count, he said.

        “It was the same dilemma as in Florida,” Mr. Daiker said. “Our conviction was that we were smarter than the machine — that the machine was programmed to do what we wanted it.

        “But we thought our human judgment was superior. I continue to believe that.”


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