Election Day: The people behind the polls

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Have you ever thought about where all the voting machines go when there’s not an election being held? The answer is the warehouse. It’s nondescript, but it houses machines that are integral pieces to the voting process in Natchitoches Parish.

The Parish Board of Election Supervisors (PBES) met at the warehouse on Nov. 9, a few days after the election. The board consists of the Registrar of Voters (ROV), The Clerk of Court (COC), an appointee from the Governor’s Office, and the heads of the Democratic and Republican parties.

Over 100 voting machines that service 50 precincts in the parish must be opened so the numbers that they show can be compared against the numbers Clerk of Court David Stamey submitted to the Secretary of State.

“I was thrilled with this year’s turnout for a non governor/non presidential election,” said Stamey. “The commissioners and commissioners in charge worked very hard through this process, even when there was a problem with the polling place in Kisatchie after a wind storm destroyed a power pole. The Sheriff’s Office delivered a trailer with a generator and light tower so voting could continue uninterrupted.”

With 300 commissioners working throughout the Clerk of Court’s Office, Election Day is a day long process. They are sworn in with an oath for diligence, honesty and fairness. They then gear up the voting machines and open the doors for a daylong voting marathon. There are also three Secretary of State employees on hand to fix voting machines or correct problems.

Back at the warehouse, Registrar of Voters Debbie Waskom helps board members unlock each machine, fire up the computers and check the numbers on each one.

The first number shown is the number of the public that voted. The second number is the “protective number,” which logs all the votes ever cast on the machine. These are the numbers that are compared against what the Clerk of Court submitted to the Secretary of State’s Office.

This is a check and balance system to ensure there were no human or mechanical errors during the voting process.

For the Nov. 6 election there was a 44% turnout in Natchitoches Parish. Waskom’s office processed just under 11% of the voters. Waskom said four years ago more voters turned out, but there was a City Marshal election at the time.

“To just have a School Board election on the ballot and still get this kind of turnout is huge,” she said. “It’s nice to see that level of involvement.”

The total turnout for the election won’t be determined until around Nov. 14 when the poll books are finalized.

The schedule below gives an inside view into the process involved in running an election:

Oct. 10- Draw commissioners in the Clerk of Court’s Civil Department

Oct. 19- Clear voting machines in the ROV Office

Nov. 2- Seal Voting Machines at the Warehouse

Nov. 6- Count early votes/absentee ballots in the COC’s Civil Department

Nov. 7- COC delivers the provisional ballot envelope to the ROV

Nov. 9- COC and at least one member of the PBES opens the voting machines

Results are verified from the voting machine votes and the absentee by mail and early voting votes

PBES begins compiling election returns

File all requests for recounts of absentee and early votes

Nov. 13- PBES must complete the counting of provisional ballots prior to the compilation of returns

Complete the compilation of the election returns and file a copy with the COC

Recount absentee and early votes

Nov. 14- COC transmits election returns to the Secretary of State (SOS) and PBES mails compiled statement of election returns to SOS

Nov. 15- SOS verifies and compiles election results for candidates, proposed constitutional amendment, and recall elections. Results announced on SOS website by noon.

Actions contesting a candidate election must be filed with COC, who notifies SOS, who then releases machines for clearing and reprogramming in parishes where no election contests were filed

Nov. 21- SOS promulgates returns for candidates, proposed constitutional amendment, and recall elections