Friday, November 7, 2008

Votes counted until midnight

Process went well with only minor delays

Express Staff Writer

The Blaine County deputy clerks were hard at work Tuesday night. While others were home glued to the television set, they were at the Blaine County Courthouse in Hailey counting 10,707 ballots until a little after midnight.

"All in all, it went extremely well," said Blaine County Clerk JoLynn Drage. "I was very, very pleased."

There were a few hiccups along the way with the use of new "optical scan" ballot tabulation machines. The submission of nearly 4,700 absentee ballots caused some issues. Blaine County Commissioner Tom Bowman said 500 of the mail-in absentee ballots had been printed with the wrong bar code, which made them illegible to the machine.

"We took a calligraphy pen and put the missing barcode in," Drage said.

Also, some of the mail-in ballots were folded, and the creases caused the machine to stop.

"It just took a little more time," said Blaine County Commissioner Larry Schoen. "It doesn't affect the vote."

Throughout the night, ballot boxes from precincts all over the county flooded in. The two largest precincts, Precinct 8, which represents the Woodside neighborhood in Hailey, and Precinct 10, which represents Bellevue, came in last. The Woodside ballots arrived at 9:40 p.m. and the Bellevue ballots at 11:30 p.m.

Drage said precinct volunteers have to match ballots with signatures, so the larger the precinct, the longer the delay.

Prior to Election Day there were 11,736 registered voters in Blaine County. Drage noted that the precincts have yet to count the number of voters who registered on Election Day.

"They had a huge number of new registrations," Drage said.

Meanwhile, the city of Hailey held its own ballot initiative on Election Day in a separate room at the Community Campus. While Hailey City Clerk Mary Cone said turnout was higher than previous ballot initiatives, the turnout was still substantially smaller than the number of votes cast in the general election. Of the 3,880 voters registered to vote in Hailey, at least 2,449 voted in the general election, not including Hailey voters who voted absentee, whereas only a little over 1,200 ballots were cast in the Hailey city election. In order to vote in the city ballot initiative, a voter must reside in Hailey's city limits, and not everyone whose polling place is in Hailey resides there.

Cone said the city had numerous signs on the day of the election as well as public notices before Election Day to inform the public of the initiatives.

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