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Letter to the editor: An observer on absentee ballot processing
Letter to the Editor generic


I was selected to observe absentee ballot early processing at the Bryan County courthouse on June 8.

Per state rules, ballots were counted in batches of 100, yellow envelopes opened, then the white ones, ballot counts verified, and all information recorded on a reconciliation form. Nearly 4,000 ballots processed in 7 hours by 5 ladies (about 100 ballots/ hour/clerk). Some areas could have been streamlined, but for a first run it was quite efficient.

Phase two started June 9, scanning votes for later tabulation. Two techs (one county, one state) fed 100-ballot stacks through Bryan County’s only scanner. Zipped through in roughly 1.5 minutes (one/second), then wait for computer to verify. When an error code indicated a problem, they had to stop and find that vote(s). The techs claimed almost every batch had 1-3 kicked out, forcing the extended process (averaging nearly ½ hour per batch) to verify those ballots and often found rejected votes where no problem seen.

Not sure if this was a ballot, scanner, or software problem.

I asked why they hadn’t started earlier ( preprocessing could have started June 1), but the county Board of Elections didn’t get that info from the state in time.

The citizens of Bryan County can take pride knowing their BOE worked extremely hard to conduct this election in a fair and unbiased manner.

There were a few problems at the county level, but these were being worked out. Based on my observations, the real culprit was at the state level, with missed opportunities, mixed and late signals, insufficient testing of equipment and processes, and it appears much more information is needed regarding ballots, scanners, and software used to analyze the votes.

I would urge Bryan County voters using absentee/mail-in ballots to get them in early and, if at all possible, to use the drop boxes to avoid any delays in the mail.

Kenneth Copi, Pembroke

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