Ballot counting explained: See why it takes so long

ABC12 spoke with someone who was part of the counting process in Michigan on Tuesday.
Published: Nov. 5, 2020 at 5:41 PM EST
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FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) - (11/5/2020) - While Michigan’s results are in, we’re still awaiting numbers from several states. And, many people are wondering what is taking so long.

ABC12 spoke with someone who was part of the absentee ballot counting process in Michigan.

Dale Weighill, of Flint, explained it took his team of 60 people 14 hours to get the work done.

So, if you do the math, the team of 60 volunteers in Oakland County was tasked with counting about 26,000 absentee ballots. It took them 14 hours. 26,000 divided by 14 shows they counted about 1,850 ballots per hour.

“It is extraordinarily tedious, but there’s a good reason for that,” Weighill explained. “We want to make sure the ballots are counted accurately.”

He served as an adjudicator Tuesday in Royal Oak.

His task was deciding if absentee ballots with any issues are thrown out, counted, or partially counted.

But, before the ballot even got to him, Weighill said several other volunteers played a role as well.

“There’s all these multiple stations, checks and balances with the ballot lines. It’s way around the room, kind of like a snake,” he said.

Weighill walked ABC12 through the process. He explained one volunteer brings a stack of the absentee ballots to the table. A person there unseals the postage envelope. Then, it’s passed to the next person who takes the ballot out of the secrecy sleeve. Then, the next person rips off the barcode at the top, puts that in a pile. The ballot is then handed to another volunteer who flattens it, so it can properly go through the machine.

Once in the machine, Weighill said about 300 to 400 were flagged for various errors, like voting for more than one candidate in the same race.

Finally, Weighill, a Democratic volunteer, worked with a Republican volunteer to evaluate the scanned ballot on a computer program.

“We talk about in this country how divided we are and Republicans versus Democrats; and, it’s like cats and dogs trying to get together. But, Anna and I achieved consensus every single time,” Weighill said.

He also added that every volunteer went through training for this important job and no one could have their cell phone during the actual counting process, all 14 hours.

“And I want to tell you that there was a mixture of parties in that room,” he explained. “Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Taxpayers Party, and there was no commotion, there was no arguing, it was a well-run well-oiled operation. And we got it done.”

Besides the 60 volunteers, Weighill said what are called “challengers” were also on hand the whole day. They were both Democrats and Republicans who walked the area throughout the day observing the process from opening the ballot to Weighill’s adjudication.

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