This is my second blog posting about my election activities in Nevada, and I am writing after my third shift observing the counting of mailed ballots. Mostly, it's like watching grass grow.
Unlike many states, Nevada allows processing of ballots while voting is ongoing. Pennsylvania, on the other hand, is an example of a state where mailed ballots cannot be touched until the polls close on Election Day. In addition to slowing the process, this was a source of some (unjustified) suspicion in 2020. "What are they doing with all those ballots during all that time?” “Tampering? “Trashing" Duplicating?" Many possibilities suggested; none accurate.
The observation area, walled off by glass, is directly behind the "Ballot Opening" area, so you cannot see much else (though another observer brought binoculars yesterday!). There is also a "Sorting" area, where the ballots, in their envelopes, are run through a machine and divided by precinct. "Signature Verification" has large computer screens that zoom in on voters' signatures in detail. The signatures come from the ballot envelopes and are compared to the Registrar of Voters' database of signatures.
But back to "Ballot Opening." The process starts with a stack of ballots in their envelopes, already split open, in front of each election worker. The worker pulls the ballot out of the envelope, flattens it out, and puts in in one tray. The envelope and security sleeve are then put in separate piles. Occasionally, there is a technical problem: the ballot is marked in purple pen, rather than the required blue or black, or it has a lot of stray marks. Such ballots are put in yet a different tray. Nothing is counted until several more steps have been completed.
All of this is to say that it is a very organized, prescribed, labor-intensive process, most of which is completed by hand.
Another thing about observing—you can see up close how diligent and dedicated the election workers are. I am sure it is no more fascinating to do these tasks than it is to watch them, but the congenial, though businesslike, atmosphere is palpable. And although the election workers in the counting room are designated by party, wearing "DEM," "REP," "NP"[nonpartisan] and other badges, it's heartening to see them engaged in a common pursuit, running the best election they can.
Estelle H. Rogers
LDAD Board member and retired Voting Rights Attorney