Another long election night expected in Cobb
by Geoff Folsom
August 28, 2012 12:31 AM | 2768 views | 6 6 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — Cobb residents can expect another long night before getting complete results in the November election, Elections Director Janine Eveler said Monday morning. But some changes are being planned, she added.

“That’s the big one,” she said of the Presidential election. “It won’t be faster than the primary. We’re going to try to get them as quickly as we can, but the process does take a while.”

Complete Cobb results from the primary were not posted until 4:27 Wednesday morning from the Tuesday vote.

With only 8.5 percent voter turnout, the Aug. 21 runoff had a shorter ballot and fewer machines from which to process results and didn’t have long lines or a late afternoon rush like the county saw during the July 31 Primary elections, Eveler said. But she is expecting those issues to return when voters got to the polls for the Nov. 6 Presidential election.

Eveler hopes to have some results available before 9 p.m. on election day. She said the county will count mail-in ballots earlier in November, but it probably won’t be when polls open at 7 a.m., when they are legally allowed to start counting. They will more likely start opening ballots around 3 p.m.

“We don’t have our regular staff available,” she said. “It’s a lot of county employees who work their regular day and then come help us at night.”

Board member Pat Gartland said that in 2008, election workers started counting mail ballots at 3 p.m. and didn’t leave until 6 a.m. the next day.

“But that’s no problem,” he said. “It’s a challenge, and we’re expected. That’s why we make the big bucks.”

Eveler said a change in law will allow the county to have two vote review panels, which will speed up the counting of absentee by mail ballots.

“We’ll be able to split that workload,” she said.

Part of the slow process of results being reported is because the county has been taking all its memory cards, which hold the actual voting results, from polling places to its preparations center in Kennesaw and then to the elections office in on Whitlock Avenue in Marietta. While Eveler said other paperwork needs to be taken from polling places to Kennesaw, in November some of the memory cards can go right to Marietta if it is on the way from the polling place, which would allow some vote totals to be posted sooner.

In the last couple years, the county has also seen a lag in its vote reporting time because it used to transmit election results directly from the polling locations. But because the machines require an analog connection, and those connections became harder to find, Cobb had to then start taking the votes to the two locations to be counted, Eveler said.

Gartland said he received calls praising the elections office for getting the results released faster during the runoff than during the primary.

A late start on counting the mail ballots was a factor listed in the delay of vote totals being released in the primary, when the first results were posted on the Georgia Secretary of State’s website nearly three hours after the polls closed, and mail-in ballots were fully counted at 4:27 a.m. During the runoff, most results were in by 10 p.m.

Secretary of State’s spokesman Jared Thomas said his office has nothing to do with the delay in vote totals being released.

“On election nights, (Secretary of State’s) staff are updating results every 2-4 minutes as they come in from the counties,” he said.

Eveler said the county is also looking at addressing the Secretary of State’s election night reporting website, which for much of the primary and runoff elections displayed 0-of-153 precincts had reported their votes for much of the evening, before suddenly showing that 42 precincts had been counted at 9:17 p.m. She said the website will not consider a precinct’s votes counted until its election day polling place, advance in-person voting and mail-in ballots are all counted. That differed from how Cobb County posted votes on its website in the past, where a precinct was considered counted as soon as the results for a polling place were in.

While counties are now required to post their votes on the Secretary of State’s website, Eveler said the Cobb does have the option of paying a vendor to handle the administration of its part of the state site, which would allow it to release how many precincts have been counted the way the county sees fit. The county is considering an agreement with Florida-based SOE Software, which maintains the Secretary of State’s election site.

“We would like to set it the way we like, so as soon as the poll results are in, the precinct shows the number incrementing up,” she said. “Its how we’ve done it in the past, so people are used to it that way.”

The program would also allow Cobb to use county specific informative messages, Eveler said. In addition, some elections are only for local races, meaning the county would not be able to use the state website for them and would instead have to resurrect its old election website. But using the vendor’s program would allow the county to use the Secretary of State’s site no matter which election.

“We would be able to have the settings be what we wanted, instead of the state making the choices for us,” Eveler said. “Which is what it is now, because they’re paying the bills now.”

Eveler said the county is still far apart on agreeing to a price for SOE to handle its election night web reporting. While she wouldn’t give exact figures, she said a multiyear agreement would run the county less than $10,000.

Eveler said the current system works for the state because it allows it to say which counties are completely reported more easily.

Thomas said his office is currently working with SOE to display precinct level results. He said the agency can only report a precinct as counted when it has at least one vote recorded in each of the three categories: election day polls, advance voting and mail-in ballots.

“You’re baking a cake with flour and eggs and butter,” he said. “You don’t have to have everything in there, but we’re not going to call it a cake without parts of all three.”

But Eveler said it effectively makes no difference, since all the early and election day votes from a precinct are uploaded at the same time, meaning when one vote is counted, they all are.

By a 4-0 vote, the board certified the Aug. 21 runoff, which featured the reelection of Cobb Commission Chairman Tim Lee and the election of Lisa Cupid to southwest Cobb’s place on the Board of Commissioners. Eveler said 34 provisional ballots were cast during the runoff, with 20 of them being certified

The board also unanimously voted to permanently move a Mableton polling location from the now-closed Sky View Elementary School to the new Mableton Elementary. Sky View was closed in order for its students to move into a new, larger Mableton Elementary. Eveler said the move will impact where 1,308 people vote.

Board Vice Chairman Rob Garcia did not attend the meeting.
Comments
(6)
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necobbmom
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August 29, 2012
It's not just all about the timely reporting of results, but the ACCURACY and INTEGRITY of the whole process. It is up to the Board of Elections to get it right, provide CORRECT absentee ballots, get the maps and precincts correct, so that whole precincts don't get sent incorrect voter registration cards,(Lassiter 01) and finally for them to recount ALL votes given the fact that there were abundant errors all around. It is the Board of Elections duty to get it right, not blame the voters for not being aware that their ballots may be incorrect.
Just Wait
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August 28, 2012
Is it illegal, improper or just impossible to download results from the machines during the course of the day, transport them to headquarters, and have them there to begin counting at 7pm?
Really Now???
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August 28, 2012
Why is Cobb slower than all the other metro counties? Maybe Cobb election office should check with our neighbors to see how they are able to be more efficient in the process.
I'm Confused
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August 28, 2012
http://results.enr.clarityelections.com/GA/41629/97957/en/summary.html

This is the URL for the SOS's election results web page. The results aren't being generated by the SOS but Clarity Elections in Florida. Why is this?
@ Confused
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August 28, 2012
It's like when you upload photos to Webshots.com or Snapfish.com so you can share them with your friends and family. You still have the official original photo on your home computer, the company's website is just used to display the photo for others to see. Each county uploads its vote counts so they can be displayed on one website. The State consolidates counts from multiple counties for district races that cross county lines and displays those consolidated results on the site as well.
West Cobb Resident
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August 28, 2012
Getting it right is more important than getting it fast.
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