Vote count: Finding and fixing human errors

Counting and recounting, checking and reconciling, town election officials finally resolved discrepancies in figures at two voting districts that had kept election night totals “unofficial” for two days.

They filed an amended return with the secretary of the state’s office in Hartford the Thursday after the election.

John Frey was still re-elected as state representative. President Obama still lost in Republican Ridgefield while carrying the Democratic state. The winners and losers were all the same. Nothing changed — except the vote totals.

“I don’t know what to tell you — two human errors,” said Democratic Registrar of Voters Cindy Bruno. “The machines are fine.”

There were two different problems, one at District One, which votes at East Ridge, and one at District Two, one of two districts that votes at Scotts Ridge Middle School.

“It’s fine, its simple, there’s no machine failure, we’re good,” Ms. Bruno said Thursday.

The problem at District Two was resolved Wednesday, the day after the election. There, the number of votes recorded by the scanning machines exceeded the total of voters passing through the checkers’ tables where people going in to vote show their identification.

“It was discovered they didn’t accurately add up one of the check-in books. …One page of 39 voters they neglected to add in on election night,” Ms. Bruno said.

The problem at District One went the other way — almost 50 fewer votes were recorded by running the paper ballots through the scanning machines than the number of voters recorded as entering the polling place by the checkers at the tables.

“District One neglected to complete the process where they had 49 ballots they neglected to put through the tabulator on election night,” Ms. Bruno said. “They were left locked in the ballot box, so we were able to just count them.”

The forgotten ballots were in the auxiliary bin, where ballots go that the machine has trouble with on the initial tabulation as they’re fed in voter by voter during the day’s balloting.

“If there’s a jam, if someone incorrectly marks their ballot but they don’t want to redo a ballot, they go into the auxiliary bin and are fed through the tabulator at the end of the night,” Ms. Bruno said.

“The process wasn’t skipped, it just wasn’t completed,” she said.

Although the District Two problem was resolved Wednesday, figuring out District One was slowed by the snowstorm the day after the election. “Likely, we truthfully would have found the second error on Wednesday if it hadn’t started snowing,” Ms. Bruno said.

“You have to do everything with one person from each party, and because of roads, you’re out of deputies. And so, we found it Thursday morning.”

While it isn’t unusual for the “reconciling” process to keep election officials working hours after the polls close, it’s rare that everything isn’t worked out by the time people go home late Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning.

In this case, they knew something was wrong because the nearly 40- and 50-vote discrepancies were so large.

“When it’s that high a number, you kind of know you need to count again, something got missed,” Ms. Bruno said. “So we did.”

The revised official totals for Ridgefield balloting are:

• President: Romney (R) 7,360 (52.7%); Obama (D) 6,461 (46.2%); Gary Johnson (Libertarian) 109 (0.8%); Anderson (Independent) 25 (0.2%); Stein (write-in) 12 (0.1%).

• U.S. Senate: McMahon (R) 7,259 (53.6%); Murphy (D) 6,082 (44.9%); Passarelli (Libertarian) 191 (1.4%). (Note, within these totals, Republican McMahon had 319 votes on the Independent line, and Democrat Murphy had 157 votes on the Working Families line.)

• Congress: Obsitnik 6,673 (49.8%); Himes 6,728 (50.2%). (Note, Democrat Himes had 288 of the above total on the Working Families line.)

• State Senate: Boucher 8,058 (61%); Curry 5,161 (39%). (Democrat Curry had 208 of her total on the Working Families line.) Jeff Russell (write-in) received one vote.

• State Representative, 111th District: Frey 8,142 (63%); Bonistalli 4,791 (37%).

• State Representative, 138th District: Jan Giegler (R) 453. Ms. Giegler won unopposed across the district, which includes areas of Danbury and New Fairfield and added part of north Ridgefield in the  2011 redistricting. In Ridgefield she had 389 votes as a Republican, and 64 on the Independent line.

Ridgefield’s voter turnout was 82%, with 14,048 of some 17,185 registered voters participating in the election.

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