Counting votes

The system worked — it took a little longer than everyone would have liked — but the system of vote counting, and reconciling numbers, eventually resolved Ridgefield’s election night vote total discrepancies.

It’s hard to call it reassuring, but human error is one of life’s true constants and it’s almost to be expected that there would be mistakes in a voting and counting operation that records 14,000 people’s choices in six races featuring 16 candidates.

At every election and referendum, the initial counting and posting of totals at each district polling place is followed not only by totaling numbers, but by a painstaking “reconciling” process that balances the votes counted against the number of people checked off as having entered the polling places.

Election workers,  in teams of one Republican and one Democrat, go through the numbers until they find all the discrepancies.

As recounts have long shown — whether it’s Bush versus Gore in Florida, or Irene Burgess versus Keith Miller for the Ridgefield school board — the numbers don’t always come out exactly the same.

Automated doesn’t mean flawless. Ballots get filled out incorrectly, papers jam in machines, totals are added up by human beings — people who used their erasers in math class like everyone else.

In this election there were two problems. In one, a page of names in one of the books of people who checked in to vote got missed. In the other, some ballots that went into the scanning machine’s bin for paper ballots that didn’t go through right the first time, weren’t re-run through the machine.

It’s rare that it takes two days to figure out what went wrong. But the reconciling — hours ticking by as everything is balanced out, until officials are satisfied they got everything right — is a part of each election.

That shouldn’t be a surprise. What would be suspicious is if the election officials never had problems.

Things didn’t add up in a way that made sense, the election officials went through their numbers again and again until the discrepancies were resolved and they understood what went wrong.

The mistakes were made public from the first, and election officials worked for as long as it took to figure out what went wrong.

It’s all you can ask for, really.

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