County clerk predicts another long night for Nov. 3 election
By Liz Beavers
Tribune Managing Editor
KEYSER - Even with two Opti-scan machines running and extra personnel examining the ballots, the tabulation process for November’s general election promises to be another long one.
Mineral County clerk Lauren Ellifritz, who is also the county’s elections clerk, told the Mineral County Commissioners this week that she is taking measures to try to keep things running as smoothly as possible that night, but still expects it to go slowly due to several contributing factors.
Due to this being such a hotly contested presidential election, she said she expects an exceptionally large number of Mineral Countians to exercise their right to vote.
She also expects a large number of mail-in or absentee ballots - which must be folded in order to place them in the envelope to mail them back to the county. It was the folded ballots that caused a lot of the problems on the night of the primary election.
As of Tuesday, 571 people had requested mail-in or absentee ballots, “plus another 30 or 40 today,” she said Wednesday.
During the primary election, when a total of 3,573 persons cast their ballots, the large number of mail-in ballots jammed up the counting process because the folds in the ballots kept snagging in the Opti-Scan machine. At times they had to be fed through one-by-one. Finally, a sensor went out on the machine and the process had to be stopped altogether until a technician could arrive later that morning.
Ellifritz said the general election ballots will be worse.
“Because of the two levies on the ballot, it’s a 17-inch ballot this time,” she said. “So where the primary ballots were folded and folded, these ballots will be folded and folded, and folded.”
Because of the sensor going out in the county’s Opti-scan, Ellifritz requested a backup machine which had been located in Hampshire County. She said she will actually have both those machines running in tandem on election night.
“One machine will be doing early and absentees and the other will be doing the regular ballots,” she said.
The other issue that is expected to greatly slow the counting process is the fact that there are write-in candidates, which means every ballot will have to be examined by one of the election workers on duty that night.
While Mineral County only has one write-in, there are over 30 s statewide, including 29 running for president.
“I plan to have at least three write-in counters, because they have to physically touch every ballot,” she said. “The good thing is they only have to look at the front because the levies are on the back.”
The general election is Nov. 3.