Clerk-recorder defends pace of vote count
Nevada County Clerk-Recorder Lorraine Jewett-Burdick used many words Wednesday to explain the slow count of votes in Tuesday’s general election, but “meltdown” wasn’t one of them.
“For the record, there was no meltdown,” Jewett-Burdick stated in an e-mail to The Union Wednesday in reference to a headline characterizing the count.
Jewett-Burdick acknowledged that her prediction for a 12:30 a.m. return was stretched to 1 a.m.
“That’s not a delay, that’s my prediction being off by 30 minutes and The Union being inflammatory to sell newspapers,” Jewett-Burdick wrote.
She declined to speak directly with The Union reporters Wednesday and didn’t explain why only limited interim counts were available throughout the night.
At 10:07 p.m. Tuesday, the county’s Web site reported that no votes had been counted in any precincts in supervisorial District 3, and only one of 24 precincts had been counted in District 4.
Jewett-Burdick said Tuesday night that returns were slow in coming because ballot counters at the Elections Office were tabulating two ballot sheets instead of one for every voter. That meant twice as many runs through the vote counter, she said.
She said the problem was compounded by the fact that more than 1,500 absentee ballots were dropped off at the polls after noon Tuesday.
In all, the Elections Office had 94 types of ballots to process.
Former county Clerk-Recorder Bruce Bolinger said he was watching for returns at the county library until 11:30 p.m. Tuesday night and wondering why there was a delay.
“The ballot-counting system we have in Nevada County is perfectly capable of handling a two-card ballot in a timely manner,” said Bolinger, who bought the Election Systems & Software ballot counting system in the early 1990s.
“My question is, did (Jewett-Burdick) have a technician from EE&S there to help her with counting the ballots?” Bolinger said.
When counting ballots for major elections, he said he always had a technician on hand to trouble-shoot problems.
Bolinger said it costs roughly $1,000 to hire a technician. “That’s a very worthwhile investment to ensure everything goes smooth,” he said.
Tuolumne County uses the same technology and didn’t have any problems Tuesday night, said assistant county clerk Jackie St. George.
“I understand that Nevada County had a little bit of a situation, but it was only because they had a two-page ballot,” St. George said. “And to be accurate and fair, it was only understandable that it took as long as it did.”
Tuolumne County election returns were posted on the state’s election Web site at 11:45 p.m.
“Our reporting went fine,” she said. “But of course … we only had eight ballot types with one ballot card.”
St. George said it was amazing that the Nevada County Elections Office was able to post its returns with the state by 1:16 a.m.
“You always shoot for being out earlier,” she said. “But you have to be accurate, and you have to be sure before you release the results.”
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