Wayne County waiting on election results 18 hours after polls close

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Wayne County election officials are still winding down the count of votes collected Tuesday and in the preceding weeks through early voting, mailed ballots and the traveling board.

Shortly before 1 p.m. Wednesday, no results were yet available on the county’s website. Polls closed at 6 p.m. Tuesday and few if any voters were standing in line at that time, based on a reporter’s visit to four of the county’s eight vote centers around that time.

Wayne County Clerk Debra Berry said the mail-in absentee ballots and the ballots collected by the traveling poll board, who visit shut-ins and others, were a part of the delay in finishing the vote counting Tuesday night.

Having to print the results tapes of results for each precinct at the polling places instead of bringing the equipment to the courthouse as usual also threw off the regular schedule and added more time to the counting, Berry said.

Wayne County Democratic Party chairman Beth Harrick requested the change in where tapes were printed, saying it was needed to comply with the state statute for electronic voting.

The Democrats’ concern about following the state statute developed this year after they learned about a difference in the training that poll workers receive compared to materials for poll watchers.

The code says, “Subject to IC 3-12-2-5, as soon as the polls are closed, the inspector, in the presence of the judges and poll clerks, immediately shall secure each electronic voting system against voting and obtain at least one (1) paper printout of the total votes cast for each candidate and on each public question in that precinct.”

Richmond attorney Amy Noe Dudas, who represented the local Democratic Party on Tuesday, said the intent of the statute is to make sure the vote count from each vote center matches up with the count at the courthouse, thus preserving the integrity of the election. She said the statute has been on the books since electronic voting began.

All of the data from early/in-person absentee voting and Election Day voting ended up being input at the same time, meaning that early vote totals couldn’t be separated from the Election Day votes, Berry said.

Berry made the announcement at 3 a.m. Wednesday that the count would be temporarily halted. She had been up 24 hours then, since 3 a.m. Tuesday.

After the announcement of the recess in counting, Barry Ritter, the Republican member of the Election Board, said, “I think Debbie and the staff here have done a tremendous job with the turnout and workload.

“The issues we faced here are just a reality, that we need to do our checks and balances,” Ritter said.

In response to the assertion from Dudas that the Democratic Party notified Berry last week about the procedural issue involving printing the tape results at the polling place, Berry said, “They did not talk to me about that.”

Berry said she spoke with Harrick about the Democratic Party’s wish to have watchers at the polls and Berry approved their credentials.

“We did not talk about the tapes,” Berry said.

When the poll watchers made it known that the tapes needed to be printed on site and that they were to be given a copy, Berry said she was surprised.

That led to a call to the state board for confirmation of the interpretation of the statute Harrick referenced.

This report is from Rachel Sheeley and Millicent Martin Emery. Find more updates at hmgccity.com as they become available. Please consider subscribing for $35 per year for a paper full of news about all of Wayne County to be sent weekly to your home or business.

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