By Nathalie Hardy • Columnist • 

Counting delay causes concerns

The Yamhill County Clerk’s Office did not complete its count of Tuesday’s ballots until 1:30 p.m. Thursday, causing a lot of consternation among candidates and other close observers.

But County Clerk Becky Stern Doll said Oregon law allows her 20 days to complete her count. If her critics have a problem, they can press a challenge, she said.

The most vocal critic appeared to be local Republican Party activist Neal Lockhart. Citing concerns about multiple equipment failures and an alleged lack of transparency, he filed a formal request Thursday morning for a complete reprocessing of all ballots.

Stern Doll said she was consulting with the Secretary of State’s office to determine the appropriate response.

Meanwhile, she said, she still has work to do to get the election finalized. There are, for example, write-ins to be tallied, challenges to be resolved and perhaps a few stray ballots to be retrieved from other counties.

Stern Doll said the county’s vote-tallying equipment is working properly. Despite a few hiccups that delayed the count through Wednesday and part of Thursday, she said has complete faith the results are accurate. 

While Lockhart was pleased with the outcomes, showing Jim Weidner prevailing for state representative and Allen Springer for county commissioner, he said he was concerned about the delay.

He said he was particularly worried about the apparent lack of progress between the second run at midnight and third run at 4 a.m., which added only about 4,400 votes. He felt some ballots might have gone through uncounted.

When he went to the clerk’s office to check in person, Lockhart said he became even more concerned by comments Stern Doll made that the Hart InterCivic scanning equipment was not working properly. He said she told him she had been on the phone with technical support all morning, due to the problems she was experiencing.

Stern Doll denied that claim. She told the News-Register that the county’s contract with Hart provides unlimited technical support at no additional cost, and she tapped it no more or no less this election than she has in past elections.

She said the problems were more on the level of paper jams than anything else. She said there was no legitimate basis for concern.

Lockhart wasn’t persuaded.

“The voting machines and all the issues associated with the machines working and functioning properly has left a profound  lack of confidence in a lot of people’s minds,” he told Stern Doll in his demand for a recount. “The complete lack of communication, failure to inform all parties of the multiple issues with the counting machines, is disturbing at best.

“Despite multiple requests and ample opportunity, you failed to inform anyone about the major reason for over 15 hours as to why this election is still not counted.  A complete reprocessing of all ballots would bring about much needed confidence and integrity in the vote counting process. We also want different machines brought in to complete the reprocess. Then everyone can feel confident that we have accurate accounting of all votes.”

Stern Doll said the biggest factor in the slow count was simply the 82.3 percent turnout.

“I believe in trust, but verify,” Lockhart responded. “She’s asking us to have faith in machines struggling to keep up with batches, and an optical scanner that’s not picking up what’s in front of it, and a scanner that isn’t communicating correctly with the machine.

“That’s a problem. She’s telling us to trust the machines, yet the machines aren’t working right, that’s the crux right there.”

Stern Doll said the Secretary of State’s Office always selects some races and measures for hand counts, so there will be a check, what response she ends up giving Lockhart on his request. And she said she’s confident the numbers will match.

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