MA: Talk – A Poor Substitute For Integrity?

Don’t Count Your Ballots Up in Massachusetts. That Sort Of Thing Just Isn’t Done.

Story in the Eagle-Tribune about Methuen, MA:  Jammed voting machine misses six ballots in close race <read> We say “Maybe, maybe not”.

Here is the summary from the City Clerk Christine Touma-Conway:

“The integrity of the process is being proven by the fact that we’ve discovered this and are talking about it,” Touma-Conway said. “That’s why we have all these checks and double checks and triple checks.”

What exactly did they discover?

the number of voters checked in and out was six higher than the number of ballots counted by the AccuVote voting machine. That leads Touma-Conway to believe six votes weren’t counted.

That could be true, however, its also possible that 6 voters walked out without voting.  Or perhaps an error was made in the check-in process.  Did the machine jam and lose votes?  We use the same machines in Connecticut and have instructions for election officials to handle jams such that votes are counted once and only once – it would be quite an exception if the same human error were made six times in the same polling place — yet it could happen.  Here is what is reported:

The machine read 762 ballots, but 768 voters checked in and out at Precinct 7. The box containing the ballots is sealed, so officials don’t know for certain whether there are in fact 768 ballots in there, but Touma-Conway expects there is.

Voting machines regularly become jammed temporarily, resulting in one or two votes not being counted, but that usually doesn’t affect an election because the votes usually aren’t as close as the result between Kazanjian and Henrick. Plus, it’s rare for as many as six votes to go uncounted, Touma-Conway said.

Hum, perhaps they lose votes from jamming.  MA has more experience with these machines, yet how do they know?  Massachusetts does not have a post-election audit.  But what does it matter if we lose six votes in an election?  Should every voters vote really count?

This adds a new twist to the School Committee election saga, where incumbent Kenneth Henrick placed just five votes ahead of his friend and fellow incumbent George Kazanjian.

We often criticize Connecticut for having an inadequate recanvass law that falls short of a true recount, but at least we do an automatic recanvass when the election is close.  Despite our criticism of the weaknesses and inefficiencies in our post-election audit law, we do have one.  When questions arise situations similar to this one, the Secretary of the State’s office often refers the situations to the UConn VoTeR Center for research and actual factual answers.


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