Clerk explains ballot counting process in Parish and State

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By Juanice Gray, jgray@natchitochestimes.com, 318-352-3618 ext 218

With the national controversy surrounding counting of mail in ballots, Clerk of Court David Stamey took the opportunity to explain how things are done in Louisiana. He said 1,400 mail-in ballots were received in Natchitoches Parish for the Nov. 3 election.

He said the process of counting the ballots started with ensuring each one was properly signed and witnessed. This portion of the process began last Friday.

By law, the ballots could not be opened until Election Day. “At 10 a.m., they were opened and we began running them through the reader, a scantron,” Stamey said. “We meticulously covered each one. The process took five hours.”

The five members of the Board of Election Supervisors for the parish conducted the process. The Board consists of Stamey, Registrar of Voters Kathrin Holden, a Governor’s appointee, a Republican representative and a Democrat representative. “We have a culturally diverse Board as well,” Stamey said. “We know the public has to have trust in us to ensure the count is valid and accurate.”

After the ballots go through the reader, the results are sealed until 8 p.m. on Election Day. At that time they are sent via a direct and secure line to the Secretary of State (SOS). Soon after, cartridges containing data from each precinct in the parish begin arriving at the Clerk’s office. Those are then sent to the SOS as well.

Stamey said the SOS will have the mail in results first since they are sent at 8 p.m. They will show up on the SOS website and the GeauxVote app first. Then as precinct results are sent they are added and the sites are constantly updated.

Stamey said he could not say how other states operate, but understands that many states have a much greater volume of mail in ballots and use different processes.

“In Louisiana mail in ballots cannot be opened and read before Election Day,” he said.

Compare the 1,400 ballots in Natchitoches Parish that took five hours to input with some cities and states having hundreds of thousands of mail in ballots to verify and scan. “That possibly explains the delay in getting final results,” he said.