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SOS nixes hand count of contested races

Posted: Thursday, Dec 2nd, 2010

Republican Chair Richard Drake, Jessie DuBoe, Ed Nielsen and county clerk staffer Renee Hazard sort through ballots at the canvass board meeting Monday.

By Teresa L. Benns

SAGUACHE — On Monday, canvass board members counted the ambulance district race again by hand, but were forbidden by the Secretary of State’s Office (SOS) to hand-count the contested commissioner and clerk races.

The hand count of the ambulance district showed that the funding question passed by one vote, 471-472. Canvass board members spent from 8 a.m. until late in the evening examining and counting ballots.

Saguache County Clerk Melinda Myers was not present at the canvass board meeting and the clerk’s office was closed to the public on Monday.

Working without numbers from the Nov. 2 general election or a printed worksheet from the retabulation Nov. 5, canvass board members began the recount with no real baseline figures to guide their efforts. The only figures available were those generated by the M650 voting machine Nov. 15-16 during the SOS review and re-tally of the Nov. 5 retabulation.

Several canvass board members were reluctant to use these totals as a baseline because, on Monday, the machine produced different totals when counting ballots and malfunctioned in other ways.

No hand count allowed

At one point canvass board member Lisa Cyriaks and Republican Chair Richard Drake demanded a hand recount of all races and other board members agreed it should be done. Saguache County Clerks’s office staffer Renee Hazard, however, told Democrat Chair Randal Arredondo and Drake that they must consult with the SOS before a hand count could be conducted.

In a telephone conference call, the SOS told Arredondo and Drake they could hand count only enough of the ballots to make the board “comfortable,” but could not hand count the two races in their entirety. They insisted that the board count the votes exactly as they were counted election night — by machine — despite the fact that the machine counts still vary.

“We ran the numbers through the machine and came up with a different set of totals,” Cyriaks said Tuesday. “The machine knows how to count but we cannot get any reports that are meaningful because we are limited by the software.”

Cyriaks and others on the board also noted that information and numbers from precincts 5 and 9 are inconsistent and need to be examined more closely.

Democrat Judge Jessie DuBoe, running the machine for the canvass board, was questioned by Cyriaks about the incorrect date and time on documents issuing from the M650. The machine printed Nov. 4 on the Nov. 5 retabulation documents and also printed the wrong date Monday on the ballot count run. DuBoe said she was told by the clerk’s office that the wrong date and time on printouts is acceptable as long as a judge signs off on it.

Hazard and DuBoe also stated that the SOS had ordered them to audit 200 votes from the Nov. 2 election using the M650 when, by law, it is up to canvass board members alone to audit the election.

For the complete article see the 12-02-2010 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 12-02-2010 paper.

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