Candidate files complaint in close election recanvass. Update: Another candidate complaint

8/25/2010: Via CTNewsJunkie, Ken Green has filed a complaint in the Hartford election, where election night results had him winning by two votes and a close vote racanvass has him losing by two votes. His complaint alleges several questionable machine counts . irregularities, and potential chain of custody issues. The race was for a state house seat which crosses Bloomfield and Hartford requiring a recanvass of the race in both towns. <The Complaint>

Update: Hartford Courant Artilce with more details from the candidates <read>

Just how close do elections need to be to cause an actual, thorough, complete and adversarial recount?

Our Opinion:

The Connecticut Recanvass law is a useful method of reviewing results in close elections. It is based on the former practice of recounting absentee ballots, rereading totals from the backs of all lever machines and retotalling. Now most votes are recounted by scanner with some held back for hand counting. It is not the careful, adversarial, recount performed in other states such as Minnesota. When there is a moderate spread between candidates it would be of value to detect totalling errors, transcription errors, and scanner errors.

But the ultimate value of the recanvass is limited because each ballot is not thoroughly reviewed for voter’s intent and disqualifying marks which could identify the voter. Identifying marks could occur on either side of a ballot and would require that both sides be evaluated by election officials under the watchful eyes of representatives of both candidates. In fact, every ballot in a very close race should be evaluated by election officials and representatives for each candidate. There are usually a small number of ballots that can be difficult to classify which require study, discussion, and even adjudication by a court (e.g. as we saw in the Minnesota recount for Senate in 2008). A recanvass does not provide for such thorough scrutiny by election officials. It does not provide for close scrutiny or objections by candidate representatives. The law only allows two observers for each candidate. Two observers may not be enough to observe every activity going on simultaneously in a recanvass.

In our opinion, in a race a close as this one, the only satisfactory solution is a complete, manual, adversarial recount. While some of Mr. Green’s allegations are cause for concern, even if the recanvass was performed competently, thoroughly, and legally there may be ballots that were not properly classified due to insufficient scrutiny for voter intent and voter identification.  Such differences could easily change the winner is this close a race, disqualifying two votes or reversing just one vote could make a tie.

We have observed some aspects of three recanvasses in three municipalities.  All were performed using different methods and understandings of the same law. None were sufficient to satisfy the requirements of accuracy in this close a race. Here are two examples of my experiences:<Cromwell> <Hartford>

Update, also via CTNewsJunkie:  Second Lawsuit Filed Over Hartford Recount <the 2nd Complaint>

This complaint is by the losing candidate in the other election recanvassed (not recounted) in Hartford.  This complaint alleges election management and chain of custody irregularities that question the fairness of the election and the credibility of the paper ballots.

Update: Green’s day in court <read>

Update: Green Says Registrar Lied On Stand <read>


3 responses to “Candidate files complaint in close election recanvass. Update: Another candidate complaint”

  1. mattw

    I do remember, with no small amount of joy, the discussion of the “Lizard People” ballot in Minnesota. That was a hoot. I was skeptical about the voter signature / identification disqualifying a ballot, but you’re right! Sec. 9-295.

    What’s alarming to me is that I can actually think of an election where, very strictly enforced, that provision would have changed who was elected. (There was a townwide office where one party had a candidate and the other didn’t, so that many who voted party line wrote *themselves* in on the write-in line. The party that was missing a candidate in the townwide race narrowly won two seats in a district race by a small handful of votes, even though there were dozens of self-write-ins.)

    I try not to make a habit of nitpicking with people who know more about a subject than I do — as you do here — but the recanvass *law* doesn’t speak to any division of the ballots between tabulator and hand counts. As it was last updated in 1995, it’s silent on what to do with non-absentee ballots — leaving SOTS to offer a recommendation of best practices based partly in statute, partly in common sense, and partly in the preferences of your average Registrar.

    What’s funny is that they spelled out a 100% manual recanvass standard for DRE machines — 9-242b(3) — but defined it narrowly enough that it doesn’t apply to paper ballots. Hopefully the situation in Green v Ritter will inspire the legislature to revisit the subject in next session’s package of technical corrections (and will inspire the State Senate not to crush the eventual bill in the closing hours of the session.)

  2. mattw

    I should add, my understanding is that SOTS is fine with a Registrar doing a 100% manual recanvass if they and their Head Moderator insist.

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