by Guy Page
Why did Barre voting officials transcribe 133 Ward 2 ballots at the March 1 City Meeting?
At the Barre City Meeting March 1, 133 ballots could not be read by a Ward 2 vote tabulator machine. After making several attempts, City Clerk Carolyn Dawes ordered the affected ballots to be transcribed onto clean ballots. This was done. Seeking more information, Barre resident and 2021 city council candidate Brian Judd sent Dawes a series of questions. The questions, and Dawes’ responses, appear below in a transcript provided by Judd.
Editor’s note: State law appears to allows unreadable ballots to be transcribed or transferred to new ballots. law requires the Secretary of State to “establish a process for municipalities using vote tabulators, whereby markings on ballots that are unreadable by a vote tabulator may be transferred by a pair of election officials, who are not members of the same political party, to ballots that are readable by the vote tabulator.”
The following is a transcription between Brian Judd and Barre City Clerk Carolyn S. Dawes:
Judd: At what time Tuesday Night did you make the decision that you were going to transcribe these approximately 133 Ward 2 paper ballots to new paper ballots and then feed them through the Vote Tabulator(s)?
Dawes: I had teams of election workers scheduled in three shifts to process absentee ballots. The intention was to have each shift handle one ward’s worth of ballots. The first shift successfully got through the ward 1 ballots, but the second shift had problems with the ward 2 ballots, as I mentioned in my previous email. When we moved into the third shift (approximately 3PM) and it became apparent that we were falling behind, I made the decision to move to transferring the ballots, and had the absentee ballot team move on to the ward 3 ballots.
Judd: Was this your decision alone? Did you contact any sitting Barre City Councilors and or our sitting Mayor at the time before making your decision? Did you contact Director of Elections Will Sennings or anyone else at the Secretary of State’s office before or after your decision to transcribe the approximately 133 Ward 2 Paper Ballots?
Dawes: As the presiding officer (17 VSA sec. 2452), I made the decision myself. I didn’t contact any members of the Council, or anyone at the Secretary of State’s office.
Judd: Currently, where are the original approximately 133 Ward 2 Paper Ballots that you transcribed?
Dawes: As per the Elections Procedures, they have been placed in a “replaced ballots” envelope and sealed in a ballot bag. That bag is stored under lock and key with all the other ballots in the election storage room in City Hall (see #14 & #15 below).
Judd: How were the approximately 133 Ward 2 Paper Ballots divided up to be transcribed?
Dawes: There was no system to the division – each team took a stack of the ballots, and continued to take stacks of ballots until all were transferred.
Judd: Once you made your decision either by yourself or with others input, who was made aware that this was going to take place? Were all the sitting City Councilors at that time made aware of this?
Dawes: The election workers and BCA members working at the polls were aware of my decision. As I mentioned above, I was not in contact with the Council.
Judd: Was the sitting Mayor made aware of this?
Dawes: Lucas Herring was working at the polls that day, and was aware of my decision.
Judd: Once the decision was made to transcribe the approximate 133 Ward 2 Paper Ballots at what time did the transcribing begin? Were there teams of two? One to read off the selections of the original ballot and one to transcribe the selections of the original ballot to the new ballot? Who were these people who participated in this process?
Dawes: There were a few ballots that needed transferring earlier in the day, but the process began in earnest at approximately 3:00 PM. There were three teams of two, with the members of the teams changing as needed to complete the task, based on election worker shifts. The process is laid out in the Tabulator Guide, which calls for one person to read off the votes while the other person marks the ballot. The pair then reviews the votes to ensure accuracy. Upon completion they sign the ballot that was transferred from and place it in a “replaced ballot” envelope. Those participating in the transfers throughout the day were BCA members Lucas Herring, Teddy Waszazak, Patti Bisson, Amanda Gustin, Tess Taylor, Peter Anthony, and non-BCA election worker Herb Hatch.
Judd: Approximately how much time did it take to transcribe the approximately 133 Ward 2 Paper Ballots?
Dawes: As mentioned in #7 above, there were a few ballots that needed transferring earlier in the day – sometime after the polls opened at 7AM – with the bulk of the transferring happening after 3PM and finishing at about 7:20 PM.
Judd: Approximately how much time did it take to count the approximately 133 Ward 2 Transcribed Paper Ballots using the Vote Tabulator(s)?
Dawes: It takes 2-3 seconds per ballot to feed them into the tabulators, so the total time would have been approximately 5-8 minutes.
Judd: How many times were the approximately 133 Ward 2 Transcribed Paper Ballots rejected by the Vote Tabulator(s)?
Dawes: To my knowledge, none of the transcribed (transferred) ballots were rejected by the tabulators. The ballots that required transfer were rejected many times – I don’t know exactly how many times each of the ballots was rejected. We worked on them for quite a while (3-4 hours +/-) attempting to flatten them out enough to be read by the tabulator, but were unsuccessful.
Judd: Were there any people overseeing the people who were transcribing the approximately 133 Ward 2 Original Paper Ballots? If so, who were they?
Dawes: There was nobody specifically overseeing each team while they transferred the ballots. I made trips around the room to check up on the teams to see how they were doing. They were conducting their work in plain view of everybody in the auditorium.
Judd: At what time on Tuesday Night, March 1, 2022 was the process of transcribing the approximately 133 Ward 2 Original Paper Ballots and the counting of the New approximately 133 Ward 2 Paper Ballots using the Vote Tabulator(s) completed?
Dawes: The transferring was completed about 7:20 PM. Ballots were fed into the tabulators in batches as they were transferred, so all ballots were counted by the tabulators by approximately 7:25 PM.
Judd: Once the approximately Original 133 Ward 2 Paper Ballots were transcribed to new paper ballots and then these newly transcribed approximately 133 Ward 2 Ballots were counted by the Vote Tabulator(s) what was done next?
Dawes: The election was closed on the ward 1 and ward 3 tabulators. As I wrote in a previous email, the ward 2 tabulator would not close the election, and after consulting tech support, I moved the memory card from that machine to another machine. After confirming the number of ballots recorded on the memory card, I closed the election for ward 2 and printed that tabulator tape. Once all the tabulator tapes were generated, the unofficial results were posted. The BCA members then reviewed all the ballots and tallied the write-in votes and sealed the ballots in ballot bags for storage.
Judd: Currently as of Tuesday, March 8, 2022 where are the Original approximately 133 Ward 2 Paper Ballots being stored?
Dawes: All ballots are stored under lock and key in the election storage room in City Hall.