Friday, May 23, 2014

Malfunction delays county vote count

Ballots shipped to Twin Falls for processing

Express Staff Writer

Blaine County Clerk JoLynn Drage hoists sealed ballot boxes to sheriff’s deputy Kyle Green Wednesday morning at the Blaine County Courthouse for transport to Twin Falls. All of the county’s election ballots had to be counted in Twin Falls after Blaine County’s ballot-counting machine malfunctioned before all of the votes were tallied. Photo by Roland Lane

     A malfunctioning ballot scanner on Tuesday night delayed a final vote count in Blaine County until Wednesday afternoon. However, County Clerk JoLynn Drage said a backup plan already in place—to have the ballots counted at the Twin Falls County Elections Department—went smoothly.

     Drage said the county’s optical scanner jammed and then stopped counting ballots altogether about 2 a.m. Wednesday.

     The county had switched from punch-card ballots to paper ballots counted by an optical scanner in 2008. Drage said the change was made because punch cards had become “almost extinct,” and it had become difficult to get the counters serviced and to buy supplies. She said the punch cards are also almost impossible to count by hand in an emergency.

     Drage said the optical scanner cost about $85,000. She said the county’s backup plan works well enough that there has been no consideration given to buying a second one.

     Drage said the ballots were placed in boxes that were sealed and driven to Twin Falls on Wednesday morning by a Blaine County sheriff’s deputy, who upon delivery certified that the seals had not been tampered with.

     Drage said the counting was completed at about 2 p.m.

     A spokeswoman for the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office said the delay did not pose problems for the statewide vote tally.

Republican primary results

This month’s most-contested elections were in the Republican primary for U.S. representative and for governor. Blaine County Republicans showed a less anti-establishment sentiment than did their compatriots statewide.

In the congressional race in the 2nd District, Idaho voters went 62 percent for incumbent Rep. Mike Simpson and 38 percent for challenger Bryan Smith. Blaine County voters went 78 percent for Simpson and only 22 percent for Smith.

In the governor’s race, Idaho Republicans went 51 percent for Gov. Butch Otter and 44 percent for challenger state Sen. Russ Fulcher. Blaine County Republicans went 75 percent for Otter and only 19 percent for Fulcher. Fringe candidates Harley Brown and Walt Bayes got a total of about 5 percent support statewide and about 6 percent in Blaine County.

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