Democrats Observe Charlotte County Machine Recount

Editor’s note: Charlotte County DEC member David Finster was an observer inside the ballot counting room at the Supervisor of Elections offices on Nov. 12th. Here is what David witnessed:

A team of Charlotte County Democrats gathered at the Punta Gorda Historic Courthouse on Monday, November 12th to observe the machine recount of three statewide races in the 2018 election.

The recount was conducted by the Charlotte County canvassing board staff and supervised by Supervisor of Elections the Honorable Paul A. Stamoulis,  the Honorable John L. Burns, and County Commissioner Christopher Constance. Allison Tafelski, an employee of the voting machine vendor ES&S, also assisted the counting process. The ballots were guarded by a Charlotte County Sherrif’s deputy.

Also observing were representatives from each of the campaigns for Senator and Governor along with the Charlotte County Republican Party. A court reporter made a transcription of all critical events on the record. Members of the public were also allowed to observe from an area outside the counting room.

The counting room was divided into two areas with blue tape on the floor. As observers, we were instructed not to cross the blue tape into the ballot-handling area. All ballots were processed and returned to storage boxes and sealed before loading onto the transport cart shown in this photo. Once the cart was loaded with a batch of sealed boxes, they were transported down the hall to the vault while escorted by the Charlotte County Sherriff.

Counting began at 9:00 am with a brief introduction by Supervisor Stamoulis followed by a Logic and Accuracy (L&A) test of the two counting machines. This L&A test was conducted in the same manner as previous tests we’ve described on this site.

The L&A test passed with 100% accuracy.

Next, the seal on the ballot storage room was verified. The room was unsealed and the Vote-By-Mail ballots were counted, followed by the early voting ballots. Counting is expected to continue through Tuesday and the results announced after they are certified by the canvassing board.

Here is a short video showing the unsealing of the ballot storage room and the beginning of the counting process.

A small number (a total of six as of 5 pm Monday) of ballots were not readable by the scanners. In those cases, the canvassing board used the ballot recreation procedure to transfer the voters intent to a new ballot which was then scanned. The new ballot was marked by a code number and logged in a journal. A matching coded receipt was stapled to the original ballot. This recreation process was open to inspection by the observers who were allowed to appeal a decision made by the canvassing board. No challenges or appeals were made on Monday. The recreation process was witnessed on the record by a court reporter.

Issues with ballots included stray marks, incompletely filled bubbles, and stained vote-by-mail ballots, perhaps by coffee or tea. Here’s an example of the ballot recreation procedure.

The recount process is well organized and professional. Many thanks to Supervisor Stamoulis for his clear explanations and leadership in this process and to his team who is working long hours under intense scrutiny during this historic event.