Voting-machine results backed by recount test

A hand recount of two precincts on Wednesday verified that voting tabulation machines worked correctly on Election Day.

Only minor discrepancies were discovered as Jackson County Elections Center officials reviewed ballots as required by House Bill 3270, which was enacted by lawmakers in 2007 to ensure that the results from voting machines are accurate.

"It does prove that the machines were counting correctly," said Jackson County Clerk Chris Walker.

The recount showed only a few votes difference, well within the one-half of one percent requirement in Oregon elections.

The hand counts were conducted on Precinct 44 in Medford and Precinct 4 in Ashland to serve as a sample for the 52 precincts in the county. Elections workers specifically counted the results for the Nov. 4 presidential and state treasurer races as well as for Measure 56 and compared the results with the machine count.

Walker said that minor discrepancies occasionally pop up. For instance, a voter might not have completely erased a vote made by mistake. Sometimes voters will write "wrong" or "incorrect" next to a vote. Other times, they will try to scratch out a vote.

Voters won't always make their mark in the target area and the machine will count the result as an under vote.

"You'd be amazed at what some people do," Walker said.

A voter can pick up a new ballot from the Elections Center if a mistake is made in voting on the ballot they received in the mail.

Sen. John McCain, who trailed Sen. Barack Obama by 47 votes countywide in the presidential race, picked up two votes in the hand recount, one in each precinct.

In Precinct 44, Republican Allen Alley picked up three votes in the state treasurer's race and counters found one additional under-vote in Precinct 4.

Oregon Measure 56, which repealed the double-majority requirement on money measures in May and November elections, received four more votes in Precinct 44. Elections officials found that in two cases voters had tried to indicate they were voting yes, but the markings weren't picked up during the processing.

Bryan Platt, former chairman of the Jackson County Republican Central Committee, had previously voiced concern over the effectiveness of the machines used to tabulate the ballots.

"That's not to cast any aspersions on anyone down at the Elections Center or the Secretary of State's Office," he said.

He said his concern was with the machines jamming and possibly misreading ballots.

But after the recount of the two precincts, he said, "It sounds like the accuracy was in the acceptable range."

Summer Davis, compliance specialist with the Oregon Secretary of State Elections Division, said 28 of Oregon's 36 counties have performed the hand recount and they all came in well within the margin of error.

"We're feeling pretty good," she said. "We were very confident in the counties tallying machine equipment."

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or

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