Law Requires Hand Counts of Some Votes

Article excerpt

Byline: Greg Bolt The Register-Guard

Every county in Oregon will conduct hand counts of ballots in randomly selected races after Tuesday's general election as part of a new measure to ensure accuracy in the state's vote-counting machines.

The extra counts, required under legislation passed in 2007, were ordered as one more way to test ballot systems. Almost all counties in Oregon, including Lane, count ballots using the same type of optical scanners that also generate a paper trail for each vote.

"We have many checks that we make on the scanners in the system; this is simply a different precaution," said Don Hamilton, a spokesman for the Oregon Secretary of State's office. "We want to be absolutely certain that our count is accurate."

Only a few precincts in a given race will have recounts, which means no outcomes will be changed. The counts will only determine if the optical scanners counted correctly, although county clerks already take a number of steps to ensure accuracy.

That's why the recount isn't all that popular with many county elections officials, who say it adds little to the protections already in place but creates additional work at a time when they already struggle to meet a variety of deadlines. Lane County elections supervisor Annette Newingham said the new requirement mainly stems from lingering suspicion of ballot-counting machines following the contested 2000 presidential race.

"This doesn't change any results," Newingham said. "This is just to validate that the ballot counters are counting correctly a because there's a mistrust of mechanical voting equipment."

Under the law, the recounts will be overseen by a new three-member committee appointed by Secretary of State Bill Bradbury. They are former Oregon Supreme Court Justice Susan Leeson, former Oregon House Speaker Lynn Lundquist and retired Oregon State University statistics professor David Thomas.

On the morning after Election Day, committee members will draw random precincts and races from a rolling drum, similar to what is used in some lottery and bingo games. …