Some absentee ballots were hand-countedPublished 11:18pm Thursday, November 8, 2012
An unprecedented number of absentee ballots cast in the city caused a nearly 24-hour delay on clear results for two close City Council races.
Election officials ultimately counted 5,802 absentee ballots, nearly 1,200 more than Suffolk voters cast in the 2008 elections.
“I think there was keen interest in this election,” said Electoral Board Chairman Kenneth Carpenter.
The number of absentee ballots has nearly quadrupled since 2004, when Suffolk voters cast 1,469 absentee votes.
Carpenter said state code prohibits election officials from beginning to count ballots until 6 a.m. on Election Day, the same time that regular precincts open. Absentee votes are grouped into a precinct just like all the others, Carpenter said, so it must abide by the same rules.
A number of the absentee ballots were rejected by the optical scanner and had to be tabulated by hand, Carpenter said. The machine could reject ballots for any number of reasons, Carpenter said, giving as examples spilled food, stray or light marks and being slightly crumpled.
“You may be able to read it humanly, but that machine doesn’t accept it,” Carpenter said. “We’re dealing with computers.”
Carpenter wouldn’t speculate on whether all the people who voted absentee were truly entitled to do so.
“I think maybe people were urged to vote early if they could, and whether they told the truth on those absentee ballot (applications), God only knows. How do you go out and investigate one person when there’s thousands of them to investigate?”