As vote counting continued in the nerve-wracking 19th Senate District contest today (Democrat Hannah-Beth Jackson retook a slight lead today, about 250 votes), issues crop up that make you realize this vote-counting business is more complicated than most of us ever imagine.
Here's a situation that Santa Barbara County Chief Deputy Registrar of Voters Billie Alvarez told me about today that has happened more than once in her county:
Every vote-by-mail ballot is individually coded when sent to voters. In some households there are multiple vote-by-mail voters, such as a husband and wife. What happens if they get their envelopes mixed up? What if he puts his ballot in her envelope and vice versa?
The first thing that happens is the clerk who intially reviews the ballot sets it aside. The code on the envelope says this should be John Jones ballot, but that's not his signature. Same thing happens with Mary Jones' ballot.
Later, when elections supervisors review all the rejected mail-in ballots, they discover the problem.
Should they count the votes? What if the two people are not husband and wife, or even related, but simply roommates? If they were your votes, would you want them to be counted?
In the end, that's why there are still some judgment calls involved. And why, it seems nearly inevitable, that some judges are going to be called upon to make some voting decisions before the final outcome is decided.