Observations of Hand-Counted Paper Ballot

From: Arthur Keller <arthur_at_kellers_dot_org>
Date: Thu Sep 29 2005 - 16:57:42 CDT

On April 26, 2005, Palo Alto, California, hand-counted mail-in paper
ballots for a storm drain fee increase. See
http://www.city.palo-alto.ca.us/stormdrain/ There were 10,289 votes
tallied by hand. The process started at 8pm after the deadline for
receipt of the ballots ended. In advance as the ballots were
received, a check eas made for signature and they were recorded
receipt in a database to ensure no duplicate ballots.

After 8pm, the ballots in envelopes were fed into either of 2
machines to slice the top off the envelopes. These machines are
typically used to open envelopes for utility payments. Then the
ballots were removed from the envelopes. Some envelopes did not
contain ballots. One envelope contained a check, and the city mailed
back the check and counted the ballot. One envelope contained two
ballots, neither of which were counted.

Then the ballots were separated into a "yes" pile and a "no" pile.
One person voted yes and no. 31 ballots had no vote recorded.
Twelve ballots were signed and not counted.

Each group (yes or no) was then hand counted into batches of 25.
Each batch was then recounted by a second person who stapled each
batch of 25.

The City Attorney and City Clerk then flipped through each stapled
batch to ensure that they were all the same vote and then rubber
banded them into groups of 4 batches (or 100 ballots).

Then the groups of 100 were counted.

Then the vote was announced about 11:30pm.

It took 12 officials and 3.5 hours to count the 10,289 ballots by
hand for one contest.

Thanks to Donna Rogers, Palo Alto City Clerk, for the data in this report.

Report by Arthur Keller, September 29, 2005

Arthur M. Keller, Ph.D., 3881 Corina Way, Palo Alto, CA  94303-4507
tel +1(650)424-0202, fax +1(650)424-0424
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