Why the big delay in election results? Idaho county cites write-in ballots, voter mistakesPublished at | Updated at
COEUR D’ALENE (Idaho Statesman) — For a day and a half after polls closed in North Idaho, one county was still working to process some of its ballots.
Kootenai County said Wednesday that it had released 98.6% of its unofficial results from Tuesday’s election. But because over 1,100 voters changed their minds mid-ballot — marking one candidate, crossing it out and then voting for another — election officials were still working to finalize results in Idaho’s third-largest county.
Voters are instructed in writing not to cross out names but to obtain new ballots if they want to change their votes. The county, on its website, said every one of those ballots had to be duplicated onto a new ballot by a three-person team so that the ballot could be counted correctly. The process is “slowing down the unofficial final results count,” the county said.
“County staff worked constantly overnight to process those ballots, and we are continuing to work on the remaining ballots,” the website said Wednesday. “Most of our staff have not left the office for over 30 hours as we process these ballots.”
Chief Deputy Secretary of State Chad Houck told the Idaho Statesman by phone that Kootenai County also received an “inordinately high” number of write-in ballots along with the duplication ballots.
The North Idaho county received over 12,880 write-in ballots, which were hand-tallied by a three-person team, according to the county.
Houck said machines fly through ballots, processing around 500 ballots a minute, but when a machine detects a write-in ballot, the process slows. He said every write-in ballot has to be pulled backward through the machine, reread, and then distributed to a separate tray. The ballots will then go through a second process.
“They didn’t have any statistical or technical issues. They didn’t have any other issues,” Houck said. “They just simply had an inordinately high of exception-type ballots that drive them to have to do a manual process that is time-consuming.”
One in every five of Kootenai’s 60,000 casted ballots were write-in ballots.
The Statesman reached out to the Kootenai County Elections Office via phone and email for additional information, but those messages were not returned. Houck also said election officials in Kootenai County received a high volume of phone calls throughout Election Day, which pulled people away from being able to begin tabulating absentee ballots throughout the day.
The county also had a decent turnout, with 60% of eligible voters voting, he said.
Finally, late Thursday morning, all of Kootenai County’s votes had been processed, according to the secretary of state’s website. The statewide count was finished.