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Recount of Ballots by Hand Ordered

Election: Supervisors in San Bernardino County say new tally is needed after computer foul-up.


Every ballot cast in 13 San Bernardino County races, botched by a computer counting error, must be recounted again--this time by hand--county supervisors ordered Tuesday.

Discovery of the computer programming error in the first tally of votes on election night, Nov. 6, led to a full recount by computer, which changed the results in those 13 races. While county elections officials said they had complete confidence in that recount, the Board of Supervisors decided a hand recount was necessary.

"I think we ought to do whatever it takes" to restore voter confidence, Supervisor Jerry Eaves said.

Candidates are assigned a number on the punch-card system used by San Bernardino County. A programmer incorrectly programmed the registrar's computers and the wrong vote totals were attributed to some candidates in the 13 races. The programmer was disciplined, but county officials said they cannot say more about a personnel matter.

The cost of a full manual recount has yet to be determined, county spokesman David Wert said. Registrar of Voters Ingrid Gonzales will return to the board next Tuesday with a plan for the recount, he said.

The ballots to be recounted are locked in a steel file cabinet at the registrar's office, he said.

Gonzales said that before a recount can begin, she must certify the results of the election Monday. She will then have to assemble recount teams and train them.

With six teams of four people each, the recount will take at least four weeks, Gonzales said, calling that estimate "optimistic."

The process will be somewhat like that used in Florida after the presidential election last year. Gonzales said one team member will put the punch-card ballots against a dark paper and read the votes while another team member watches to ensure accuracy. The remaining two team members each will keep tallies, which are announced after every five ballots to make sure they agree. Observers may challenge the team's decision, and Gonzales will make the final decision on any challenged ballot.

Gonzales said she will need six experienced supervisors from her staff of 34 employees to oversee the teams and may need experienced employees from other county departments to serve on the teams. Her staff is already busy preparing for the March election and she cannot hire temporary help to do the recount, she said.

The supervisors asked that an official from the California secretary of state's office be invited to observe the recount, along with members of an association of city clerks and election officials.

Several candidates whose election outcomes were reversed as a result of the Nov. 13 recount thanked the board for its action.

"I hope there are no further surprises, because it would further shake the public's confidence," said Gary Edwards, who on Nov. 6 won a seat on the Chino Valley Unified School District board only to lose the seat to John Pruitt in the Nov. 13 recount.

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